Healthy eating for kids: How to talk to them about good food habits

Parents should model healthy eating behaviors for their kids and let them quit eating when they're full.
Parents should model healthy eating behaviors for their kids and let them quit eating when they're full. (Shutterstock)

"Finish your plate and you can ..."

Eat dessert. Get a toy. Go out and play. Or just excuse yourself and get away from these horrific adults talking about their boring jobs.

Bribing kids to finish all of their lima beans and broccoli is a parenting crutch with deep roots.

What many don't know, though, is that a growing body of scientific evidence has suggested tactics like that one are counterproductive and could potentially lead to childhood obesity.

"Children are born with an ability to eat to their energy needs and then stop," said Alexis Wood, an assistant professor of nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine, and lead author of a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

Rather than focusing on how much their child eats, parents should model how they want their children to eat and create a home environment structured to foster positive habits.

That's according to the statement, "Caregiver Influences on Eating Behaviors in Young Children," which summarizes years of scientific research on the topic.

By modeling, parents can give kids a framework to help set their little ones up healthy eating habits as they mature.