Parents can foster lifelong healthy eating habits in their children by providing a variety of healthy foods in the home, limiting junk food and sugary drinks, and being role models for healthy eating.
Here is a summary of nutrition and healthy eating-related obesity prevention recommendations for parents and families, based on a review of expert guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Institute of Medicine, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.
Breastfeed infants from birth to 6 months, without other solid foods or liquids, and continue breastfeeding after starting solid food, until 12 months or longer (1,2,3,4)
Promote healthy eating by stocking a variety of nutritious foods at home-fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy sources of protein, low-fat dairy (1,4)
Keep high-calorie, low-nutrient foods and drinks out of the home-especially sugar-sweetened beverages (1,4,5)
Model healthy eating for children by choosing a healthy diet (4,6)
Read tips for choosing a healthy diet: Healthy Weight Checklist
Encourage children to try a variety of new healthy foods, such as vegetables; remember that it can take multiple tries for kids to accept a new food (1,4)
Eat dinner as a family at home, and get children involved in shopping for and preparing meals (3,5,7)
Eat breakfast and encourage children to eat breakfast daily (8)
Limit eating in restaurants and fast-food restaurants, and limit takeout food (8)
Teach children to pay attention to feelings of fullness: Offer smaller portions, allow them to choose their own portions, and don’t force them to “clean their plates” (1,3,4,5,9)
Promoting Healthy Eating at Home-Source List
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Overweight and Obesity: What families can do. 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.
2. American Academy of Pediatrics – Policy Statement. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005;115:496-506.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation 2010 Rockville: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2010.
4. Institute of Medicine. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2005.
5. Office of the Surgeon General. Childhood Obesity Prevention: Parents and Caregivers Checklist. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011.
6. American Heart Association. Overweight in Children. 2011. Accessed January 30, 2012.
7. White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation: White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President: White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity; 2010.
8. Barlow SE. Expert committee recommendations regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity: summary report. Pediatrics. 2007;120 Suppl 4:S164-92.
9. National Prevention Council. National Prevention Strategy. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2011.