Written by Maria Masters courtesy of CNN:
Don’t tell them to clean their plate
You want your child to finish eating when she’s full, not when she’s finished every morsel in front of her. Research suggests that kids who are told to eat everything on their plates may be more likely to request larger portions of food when they’re away from home. “Pushing kids to eat when they aren’t hungry sets up a bad precedent,” says Lauren Levine, MD, a pediatrician at Columbia Doctors Midtown in New York City. Adults consume almost everything they serve themselves, according to a study by Cornell University experts, but their research also shows that kids only tend to eat about 60% of what they put on their plates—a totally “normal” thing, they say.
Don’t let them eat in front of the TV
Sure, kids might not put up a fuss about breakfast when that meal just so happens to be served during cartoon time. But children who chow down in front of the TV won’t be able to pay attention to the feelings of fullness that should signal the end of the meal, says Dr. Lauren Levine. Instead, “they’ll just eat mindlessly.” One 2009 study found that kids who snacked while watching television may eat more candy and soda, too. Plus, other research has found that the food advertising aimed at children reinforces the message that junk food tastes better—and can be linked to unhealthy diets in young adulthood too.
Better yet, set a screen limit
Fact: Children ages 8 to 18 now spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using media devices, according to a 2010 study by the Kasier Family Foundation. (That’s up from about 6.5 hours in 2000.) And watching TV—whether that’s on a flat screen, computer, or cell phone—takes up a whopping 4.5 hours a day. “You don’t want your children to be sedentary,” says Dr. Alanna Levine, “but watching TV all day also doesn’t increase their creativity, which is important for them.” Sure enough, this 2010 study found that kids who spend more time using media are more likely to get poor grades and are less likely to be content with themselves than those who aren’t as attached to their devices. Consider capping your child’s recreational screen time to no more than 2 hours a day. The AAP discourages any media use for kids under the age of 2 and recommends older children limit their non-education screen time—i.e., entertainment—to 1 to 2 hours daily.
Make exercise fun
As adults, we often equate exercise with the gym. But kids? They just need to get moving for about an hour a day. So kick a soccer ball in the backyard, take a family walk, or go for a hike one weekend. The key is to make sure they’re enjoying it, says Alanna Levine, MD, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Once they’re done, she says, take a minute and ask them how their bodies feel. (Spoiler alert: good. Thanks, endorphins!) That way, kids will keep connecting that happy rush with physical activity, which reinforces the physical and mental benefits of exercise.
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