National Nutrition Month: Improving Children’s Eating Habits

March is National Nutrition Month

Arkansas Psychologists Offer Tips to Improve Childrens Eating Habits

Little Rock, Arkansas, March 20, 2017 — Parents and caregivers play an important role when it comes to children’s eating habits. This March, recognize National Nutrition Month by taking steps to improve and establish healthy eating habits for the whole family.

Research shows that children who eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly are likely to perform better in school, feel better about themselves, cope with stress effectively and better regulate their emotions. They also have higher self-esteem and are less prone to developing anxiety and depression. Additionally, establishing healthy eating habits early in life can lead to long term healthy behaviors in adulthood.

According to ArPA Past-President and child psychologist Adam Benton, PhD, “Ensuring children consume nutritious food and develop healthy eating habits can positively impact mental health and day-to-day functioning. Recent studies show good eating habits affect academic performance, especially in mathematics.” Conversely, he adds that “unhealthy eating habits can negatively impact concentration and energy level. Consuming foods that are not well-tolerated or digested can even lead to behavior problems in young children.”

Psychologists can help parents and caregivers implement strategies to guide children in the process of developing life-long healthy behaviors.

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Start early. Parents and caregivers who help children establish good eating and sleeping habits early in life will avoid having to break bad habits later. Exposing children to a variety of flavors and different foods can not only help children accept healthy foods but to possibly prefer them.

Make healthy eating easy. Research shows that daily environments like home, school and work can affect habits. Children generally tend to choose foods that are familiar, easily available and ready to be eaten. Parents and caregivers can encourage kids to eat healthier by keeping healthy foods in the house and pack kids’ lunch boxes with nutritious snacks like carrots, apples or nuts instead of chips or cookies

Set a good example. Children who see their parents or caregivers buying and eating healthy foods are more likely to eat wholesome foods themselves. Healthy eating doesn’t need to be a trick. Instead, teach children to look at healthy foods as tasty and desirable. Try involving kids in planning, shopping and cooking meals to make it fun.

Rewards and treats. Many parents like to treat their children with special foods for a job well done. While everyone enjoys certain treats, try to reward children with things other than desserts or candy. Instead, consider a family outing or the chance to skip a chore or other non-food related rewards on some occasions.

Have meals as a family. Research shows that social support has a direct impact on healthy eating intentions. Family meals are not only a good opportunity for families to connect, but are also the perfect time to talk about healthy eating habits and engage children in conversations about what consists of a nutritious meal.

Be aware of kidsemotions. Support is essential when working with children to improve nutrition, especially when that path can be difficult and frustrating. Pay close attention to children’s emotions and reassure them that changes in diet are to make them healthy, and not because there is something wrong with them.

To learn more about mind/body health, visit the American Psychological Association at www.apa.org/helpcenter and follow @APAHelpCenter. To find out more about Arkansas Psychological Association visit www.arpapsych.org or www.arpapsych.com and follow @ArPAPsych.

This post is excerpted from an ArPA Press Release on 3/20/17 by ArPA Media Contact / Public Education Campaign Coordinator Kristin J. Addison-Brown, PhD. She can be reached at 870-203-6085 or email neaneuropsych@gmail.com.

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Founded in 1949, the Arkansas Psychological Association is a statewide, non-for-profit, professional organization whose purpose is to advance psychology as a science, a profession, and a means of promoting human welfare in a challenging and changing world. Our members represent the most well-trained, highly-credentialed, and clinically-experienced mental healthcare professionals in Arkansas. Our members are actively involved in providing psychological services in private practices, hospitals, and community mental health centers. Others teach in undergraduate and graduate academic programs, conduct cutting-edge research, serve in administrative positions for human service programs, and dedicate countless hours as committee members and chairs of various boards on the state, national, and international level.   In all these settings, ARPA and its members are committed to expanding the parameters of psychology in Arkansas and @increasing the quality of psychological services within our communities. In an effort to promote the mental and emotional well-being of individuals, families, and society at large, we strive to serve both the public and our membership through educational opportunities, workplace training, networking, and professional development.

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The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.