Changing eating habits in kids

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On the heels of a national discussion at Boston Children's on childhood obesity rates in the United States, experts across the country are looking for ways to bring an end to the epidemic.

Most agree a well-balanced diet and exercise are a good start, but getting children to eat better is often easier said than done.

Tara Harwood is a pediatric registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Children's.  She says if a child is going to change their eating habits, it's probably going to have to start with you.

"Parents need to get the information. What should I be doing? How should I be eating myself? How much physical exercise should I be doing? Actually getting their kids outside and then setting the example in the home, eating meals together as a family-offering the fruits, offering the vegetables," explained Harwood.

Harwood says it's ok to start slowly.  Maybe swap out an unhealthy snack with a healthier one for a week, then maybe try to trade soda for a glass of milk at the dinner table.

You can also facilitate the change by getting your child involved by having them shop with you.  They can pick out the fruits, vegetables, or other healthier food items they'd like to try. 

Harwood says if you're having trouble putting together a meal plan, seek help.

"Family physician or dietitian, a local dietitian, go and ask for professional help. What is the best route that I should go with my child? So, that way you know you're getting started off in the right direction and you're focusing on the priorities," advised Harwood.

You can also make eating healthier foods fun. Try making fruit kabobs, or let your children help in the kitchen while you prepare a healthy dish. Harwood says your kids may be more willing to try a dish they help to create.

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