Help Children Develop Healthy Eating Habits, as seen on KABC

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — It may seem like children can eat anything and not pay the price, but the early years are a perfect opportunity to start healthy eating habits. The key is to get them involved with meals and snacks.

“What’s really important is to understand what the child likes, combined with what’s good for them,” said nutritionist Patricia Greenberg, also known as The Fitness Gourmet.

Greenberg said it takes some planning, but one of the best ways to start is to make them part of the process.

“It’s just so much simpler, I know, to throw it in the bag, but what I do is I try to give her some time ahead, we sit at the kitchen table,” Greenberg said.

Get ready to cut produce, spread toppings and count snacks to avoid portion distortion.

“If the pretzel bag said 10 pretzels per portion, we count out the 10 pretzels and put it in her bag. Same with chips,” Greenberg said.

Containers with durable fruit, whole grain carbs are best, and sugar wise, even kids need to drink responsibly by using a 50-50 mix of juice, lemonade or sports beverage with water.

“She gets a nice little flavor and enjoys it, but the caloric level isn’t too high and the sugars not too high,” Greenberg said.

Another fun idea is to pour juice in ice cube trays. Put a handful in with cold water, and by lunch, the 50-50 drink is ready to go.

“For children who aren’t hungry in the morning, I like to do to-go foods that are fun, nutritious and easy for them to eat,” Greenberg said.

Try mini whole-grain bagels or pitas so there will be opportunity to eat lightly in the a.m. and save some for later. Or grab a mini yogurt with a small container of healthy cereal for a parfait at morning snack time.

Using last night’s dinner is also a healthy and economical way to make leftovers lunch. Pasta with chicken, turkey or tofu is a great mid-day meal.

And when it comes to the evening meal, togetherness is key.

“Everyone in the family in our house participates in meal planning for that reason,” Greenberg said. “I like to shut the TV off, put the homework away and everybody sits down together and eats and catches up on their day and on their week.”