N.B. CGUI begins tomorrow at Arizona State.Roll a ball towards a six-month-old baby that has just learned to sit up on his own, and you will likely see him respond with a great deal of excitement as her entire body prepares for play. Feed that baby nutritious food that he likes, and he has the same response. Whether experienced through breast milk or baby carrots, healthy eating plays a very important role in the proper development of a young child’s physical, mental and social well-being, and is just as important as playtime and vocabulary growth.This is because healthy eating is about much more than the nutritive quality of food. Regular, balanced meals and snacks that are high in nutrients help build strong bones and muscles, prevent illness, provide high energy throughout the day, and strengthen neural connections in the brain. But learning how to eat healthfully also involves understanding how meals are prepared, and how to use the experience of sharing food to strengthen bonds with loved ones.Young children benefit greatly from the experience of family mealtime. Several important studies have shown that children who eat regular meals with their parents feel a stronger connection to their families, communicate more effectively, and make more nutritious food choices. Similarly, young children who are involved in the preparation of their food—even if just banging pots on the kitchen floor while a parent prepares a meal—will more easily learn the importance of nutritive food in their everyday lives.Parents can establish good eating habits early on by scheduling regular family meals during which family members talk to each other about their day or tell stories. Additionally, parents can encourage healthy food choices by offering a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins at every meal, and by doing simple things like talking with babies and toddlers about healthful food while grocery shopping. The lessons that young children learn about healthy eating tend to stick with them for life.
- Tufts University article explains why family mealtimes may prevent risky behaviors in teens down the road.
- Parents can find recipes, research and fun activities on this site from the Family Dinner Project.
In The News:
- “How to Have a Happy Family: 7 Tips Backed by Research”, TIME, March 16, 2014.
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