Raising a healthy eater: Parents should model good eating habits


If you want your kids to start eating healthier, you’re going to have to start, too.

Allegheny General Hospital Pediatrician TaTanisha Smith says the most important thing parents can do to make sure their children stay away from pop, fried foods and unhealthy snacks like chips and cookies is to stay away from those things as well.

“Our children are watching us 24/7,” Smith said. “The big thing parents can do is model the behavior.”

If a parent tells a child to drink water and the next thing the child sees is her mom drinking a diet cola, it sends a bad message, Smith said.

Some children may say they don’t like water, but that doesn’t mean parents should give in and let their kids have sugary drinks like pop or juice.

“If [water is] the only thing they have to be offered, if they get thirsty enough, they will drink it,” Smith said.

There is a misconception that in order to eat healthy parents have to shop at places like Whole Foods, which offers all organic foods but can be more expensive than stores like Giant Eagle.

A 3 lb. bag of oranges or apples at Giant Eagle, when in season, won’t cost much more than $4, Smith said, and gives you something healthy that you can take pretty much anywhere.

Making small adjustments like buying more fresh fruits and vegetables goes a long way toward better nutrition, Smith said.

“The biggest thing is watching what you bring in the home.”

Because we live in a fast-paced society, it’s tempting to stop at McDonald’s for a quick meal, but another easy way to stay healthy is to prepare more meals at home.

When you do eat out, Smith said, avoid fried foods and anything slathered in gravy or oil. It’s also a good idea to only eat half of an entrée and take the other half home, because restaurant portions are generally too big, she said.

“You have to be willing to make that choice” to be healthier, Smith said.

Boy Scouts Pack #327 of Emmanuel Christian Church made delicious
"boats" out of fruit to demonstrate healthy eating. From left are

Romand Frankovich, David Dean, Julian Younge, Matthew Laughlin,

Winston Rouse, Xavier Rouse and Chris Neal Jr.
(Photo courtesy Alan Perry)

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