Turn Off Your Child's Hunger Switch

by John Riddle

Every parent wants their child to stay safe and healthy. You teach them about the dangers of talking to strangers when they are small, and later, hopefully, you talk with them about the dangers of drugs, sex and alcohol. But many parents are forgetting one very important category when it comes to teaching their children how to live a happy and healthy life. They forget to teach them how to eat healthy.

With reports of Childhood Obesity Epidemics making the news almost daily these days, parents need to begin to start educating their child to become a healthy eater. But what can busy parents to do help turn off their child's hunger switch? According to the American Dietetic Association president and registered dietitian Julie O.Sullivan Maillet, "education of parents and children is key to helping America's young people achieve and maintain a healthy weight."

But do parents have time to educate their children these days, when their own lives are so busy they sometimes fail to eat a healthy meal themselves? "Parents can encourage healthy eating habits in their children by being a good role model," said Rallie McAllister, a physician specializing in weight loss and wellness, and the author of Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom's Guide to Keeping You and Your Kid's Trim.

"Make it difficult to eat poorly. Kids eat what's available to them. Make the kitchen kid-friendly--stock the fridge and cupboards with nutritious foods that are tasty and fun to eat," said Dr. McAllister. "Designate a shelf or two as the 'kid's section.' Put wholesome foods front and center, where kids can see them and reach them. That's what folks at grocery stores having been doing for years."

Here are some additional ways parents can help to turn off their child.s hunger switch:

  • Reduce Fat -- Set a goal of cutting back on the number of fatty foods your child eats. Be aware of the fat content in fast food menus these days, and teach your child that moderation is the key.

  • Cut Out Sweets -- This may send some parents into denial, but it is possible to cut the sweet intake of your child. Start slowly by substituting high-fat/high sugar desserts with alternatives like applesauce, fruit salad and grapes. The trick is to offer something "unusual" that will pike their interest, for example, a bowl of applesauce with raisins in the shape of a smiley face.

  • Push Protein -- Most parents think that once they remove bad foods from their child.s diet, everything will be okay. But they must remember to replace those bad foods with good foods. For example, encourage your child to eat more lean protein, fruit, whole grains, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

  • Encourage Exercise -- Parents must lead the way and become the role model in this category. Encourage your child to be move active on a day-to-day basis, and join them in walking, doing yard work, swimming, bike riding, etc. Children learn by example, and when parents set a good example by exercising, everyone wins.

Another trick that helps children control their hunger switch is to let them play with their food. "If you can get them to put their hands on it, they're more likely to eat it," said Dr. McAllister. "Cut up low fat meat and cheese into small chunks, and give them colored tooth picks to eat with. Fill a few squirt bottles with yogurt and low fat dressing -- squirting is fun. Fill a few salt shakers with colored sprinkles -- only a few calories but lots of fun."

John Riddle is a freelance writer and author from Bear, Delaware. He is the author of 34 books, including several health titles. His byline has appeared in major newspapers, magazines and Websites across the country. He is also the Founder of I Love to Write Day, a grassroots campaign he launched in 2002 to have people of all ages practice their writing skills every November 15.

Copyright ©John Riddle. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.