Kids playing in leaves

Carrie Miller would never tell her children they’re fat.

“That is setting them up for eating disorders and insecurities about their bodies,’’ she said.

There are better ways to approach the issue if you are concerned, said Miller, a registered dietitian with the Nebraska Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

It’s important to teach kids to love the body they have, she said, and to make sure that they are fueling it properly.

Children who are overweight aren’t necessarily unhealthy. It depends on whether they’re eating a well-balanced diet and are physically active most days of the week.

Here’s how to get your child started on a healthy relationship with food.

  • Emphasize that there are no good or bad foods. It’s just that some foods should be eaten more often; others, less often. “Sometimes foods’’ and “all-the-time foods’’ is the way Miller explains it. The only exception is if a child has an allergy; then of course that food should be avoided.
  • Set a good example by having a positive attitude toward food and about your own body image; model appropriate eating. “If you want your children to eat a variety of food from all different food groups, you need to eat them, too,’’ Miller said.
  • Expose your child to different foods. But don’t pressure them to eat new things or they’ll resist. It may take multiple times for some children to accept new foods. “Make it fun. Be creative,’’ Miller said.
  • Include your child in meal planning. Look at recipes together and shop together. Have your child help prepare dinner. Studies show that just having your youngest kids set the table, wash produce or even put an item in the grocery cart will make them more willing to try different foods when they get home.

Miller said her children don’t have weight issues. But they are very different in what they like, so what to serve is something she has to consider every day.

She makes sure they eat the appropriate portion sizes and keeps them on structured meal times as much as possible. Her kids also know the importance of snacking so they don’t binge at the end of the day.

“Once again, set examples and good habits at home,’’ she said. “When they are younger, they will listen. Tweens and teens are becoming more independent thinkers, so hopefully you set the foundation when they were young.”

Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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