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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Children


Helping children develop good health habits

Linda S. Rellergert, MS, former Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

Family of four on bikesParents play an important role in helping their children develop good health habits. Healthy children eat well, live a physically active life and feel good about themselves and others. Children need encouragement from parents and other significant adults to develop healthy habits and attitudes.

Eating well

Parents help their children develop good eating habits when they:


  • Regularly provide family meals and snacks
  • Do not pressure kids to eat foods they do not like
  • Encourage children to stop eating when full
  • Offer meals and snacks that are nutritious and good tasting
  • Keep mealtimes pleasant
  • Teach children how to deal with uncomfortable feelings without eating (without using food for comfort or reward)
  • Allow children to decide whether or not to eat and how much to eat
  • Keep the TV turned off during meals


Living actively

Here are some ways parents can get their children moving:


  • Be physically active role models
  • Encourage children to be moderately active at least 60 minutes on most days
  • Move the TV out of bedrooms
  • Set limits on the amount of time the family watches TV, works on the computer and plays video games
  • Teach children games that you liked as a child
  • Make opportunities for active family recreation like playing ball, hiking or camping
  • Volunteer to help with your child’s after-school activities or sports


Feeling good

To encourage children to feel good about themselves and others, moms and dads can:


  • Show love and acceptance for every family member
  • Refrain from making negative comments about one’s own body or others’ bodies
  • Give children time and attention
  • Really listen when children talk
  • Help children develop talents and skills through hobbies and helping with chores and projects
  • Offer sincere words of praise and encouragement
  • Be an advocate for your child with teachers, relatives, religious leaders and other adults


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Last update: Monday, September 19, 2016