Healthy Habits Begin at Home

The most important building block for healthy eating is the family dinner table, even if your little one is still in a high chair. While it can be difficult for today's family to carve out the time to sit down together every night, it's important to share as many mealtimes as you can. Why?

Kids learn by example. They're a lot more likely to eat right if you do, too. If the family's meals together are usually unhealthy, that's all your child will know -- and that's what she'll learn to expect.

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You can keep tabs on what she eats. You might be in control of everything she eats now, but that will change! Once she is in school, she might just ditch that healthy lunch and have a donut and chips instead. With a healthy dinner at home, you can ensure she eats a meal that evening.

You can use the opportunity to introduce new foods to your child. She'll learn that "good for you" does not have to equal "boring" or "bland." By encouraging variety, you'll expand her culinary horizons, expanding her choices and increasing the chances she'll make the healthier selection when left to her own devices.

Once she is just a little bit older, you can get her involved and informed. Even toddlers can be involved in shopping, meal planning and even cooking. Read food labels together, explain about new foods and let her select a few fruits and veggies when you visit the store. Let her help choose the menu (within reason, of course), and try to include at least one of her favorite items with each meal.

Most importantly, dinnertime is quality family time. It's a great time to help keep the gang connected – a chance to take a break from the day's events, slow down (if only for an hour or so) and enjoy each other's company for a little while.