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Tips for better parenting

Teaching preschool children to eat healthy food

It is not fair just to tell caregivers that if a child eats mostly sugars, fats, and foods with too much salt, the childís life is seriously damaged. Those of us giving such warnings have the responsibility to tell caregivers how to teach their children to eat healthy foods. Of course, that may mean that the adults will need to train their taste for healthy foods as well.

Understanding the problem is the first step. Children develop their first tastes for foods before they are born. If their mother ate vegetables regularly while pregnant, a child is likely to like the taste of vegetables from the start. If the opposite was true, training the child to extend their life and health through their food choices will be more difficult.

See if you remember confronting a food you hadnít tried before. Did it look good? Could it be spicy, sour, feel funny in your mouth? Children trust us most of the time, but didnít we give them that medicine, take them to the doctor for shots, and things like that? We need to give our children time to look, feel, smell, and safely try a little taste of a new food.

These taste, test, and feel experiences have to be free of pressure and discipline. Eat your peas, is almost the same as Take your medicine. The task is easier if the child has not learned to like sugar, fat, and salt in the first place. Sugar, fat, and salt are taste enhancers. Adults can use them wisely, but children will choose them quickly and avoid less tasty foods like vegetables if caregivers donít help them.

The whole family will likely need to consider making big changes in their life style if they are to be healthy. Most restaurants take advantage of the power of sugar, fat, and salt. And grocery stores sell many foods where the taste is strengthened by the same three elements that are devastating to living long and healthy lives.

This healthy response to the foods we eat will be easy for children who never develop a big taste for sugar, fat, and salt. It wonít be easy teaching children who are three or older, but with motivation and patience, we can extend the life and happiness of all. It is possible that children can lead us to a healthier life style.

Jack Wright is a Mental Health Consultant working with Early Childhood Services. Contact: alexjack@blackfoot.net

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