Child care providers play an important role in supporting young children who are overweight and obese. Teaching healthy food choices will give children an important tool to maintain a healthy weight as they grow. Here are a few ideas for child care providers trying to help young children feel good about their bodies and maintain a healthy body weight.
- Remember that children come in all sizes. Children who are large or small for their age may be teased by their playmates. Make sure all children know they are loved and accepted, whatever their size. Teach children that teasing someone because of his weight is hurtful.
- Weight loss diets are not appropriate for children. It is best to offer overweight children a variety of healthy food, correct portion sizes, and opportunities to be active. Following these practices will help children grow into a more normal weight.
- Offer children a variety of nutritious foods at planned meal and snack times. Join children in eating a variety of foods, and look for opportunities to discuss the different food groups and the importance of eating foods from all of them.
- Plan meals and snacks at regular times. Planned times for eating help children develop good eating patterns and teach them good food behaviors in social situations. Children who are fed regularly do not worry about not being fed and have regular sources of energy.
- Teach children how to learn when they are hungry and full. Feed infants when they are hungry, not simply because they cry. Learn their cues for hunger. Allow toddlers to leave food on their plates, even if you believe they have not eaten enough. If a child asks for a second helping, serve a small portion, even if you believe the child has eaten enough. Include low-calorie foods in meals and snacks, and offer these foods when children ask for more.
- Be a role model for a healthy lifestyle. Children like to imitate adults, and will learn many of their attitudes about healthy (or unhealthy) eating and physical activity from you. Be enthusiastic about trying new foods yourself. When you are outdoors with children, spend time playing actively instead of just sitting and watching. When children notice that you are trying new foods and playing actively, they are more likely to try those same things.
For More Information
To learn more about healthy eating in a child care setting, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:
- Guidelines for Choosing Nutritious Foods for Children in Child Care
- Make Mealtimes in Child Care Pleasant, Easy and Appealing
- Take Time to Savor Meals and Snacks in Child Care
- Tips for Child Care Providers to Promote Healthy Attitudes about Food