Set mealtimes can reduce childhood obesity

Today in our fast paced world very few families actually stop to eat a meal together once a day. For many families it is an “eat when you can and eat what you can” attitude. This type of haphazard eating style can lead children as well as parents into a myriad of problems with their weight.

Eating meals together as a family can help reduce childhood obesity by helping your child develop a healthy attitude toward food. How? Well for starters the parent serves as a role model by providing a healthy nutritious meal for the entire family. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to introduce their family to new foods. It also enables the parent to establish a regular meal schedule and to maintain communication with the family on their day-to-day activities.

The following tips can help a parent make the most of family meal times.

Avoid becoming a “short order” cook. It is important to prepare and serve healthy meals that the whole family eats instead of serving special foods for each individual. A general rule of thumb is to make sure that you are serving at least one food that you know everyone in the family will eat. And always serve a small portion of foods that you think your child may not like. Encourage them to taste it, but don’t make a big fuss if they turn their noses up. You might be surprised that repeated exposure without pressure to eat it might make your child more willing to try it.

Try to schedule meals at regular times. When there is no set meal schedule, kids tend to snack more frequently on high-calorie foods.

Always try to plan your meals. Meals that are planned usually are healthier. Try to plan menus a week at a time. Remember the ones that your family liked and reuse them often.

Snacks are great and should be part of a child’s eating style. Just try to limit snacks at least one hour before a meal. Snacking to close to mealtime can cause a lack in appetite for a nutritionally balanced meal.

Try to eat at least one meal a day together as a family. If dinnertime for example is impossible, try breakfast instead.

Always eat meals in the kitchen or dining room. Do not eat in front of the television or behind a computer screen. This type of behavior often leads to overeating because of a lack of attention to what you are eating and how much you are eating.

It is important for parents to also help their child to recognize the signs of hunger as well as fullness.

Do not overly restrict foods. This leads to a preoccupation with the restricted food, which can often lead to overindulgence when parents are not around to monitor. For example if you restrict your child from sweets and they attend a school party where cookies are being served, they may eat 3 or 4 cookies instead of 1 because they have felt previously deprived.

Never use food as a reward or punishment. An example of this would be to promise the child dessert if they clean their plate or sending a child to bed without supper.

Never make your child clean their plate. Let them decide when they are full.

Encourage your child to eat slowly. When we eat to fast our stomach thinks it needs more to be satisfied. It takes 20 minutes for the brain to get the message from the stomach that it is full.

This body mechanism can be altered if you eat too fast.

If your child requests a second helping have him wait 5 minutes to see if he is still hungry. If after the 5 minutes he is still hungry, then give him a second helping.

Try to eat meals in courses starting with low calorie foods vegetables and salads then moving on to higher calorie foods like breads and meats.