You don't have to make huge changes in your child's diet to get on the healthy path — and you don't have to deny your kids special treats. Here are a few small things you can do that will make a big difference:
Cut out sugary drinks. Sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices are some of the leading causes of childhood obesity. Sports drinks like Powerade® and Gatorade® are loaded with sugar — a 20 oz. bottle of Gatorade has 34 grams of sugar, almost as much as a can of soda. Fruit juices also contain as much sugar as sodas and sports drinks, and your child's body processes the sugar from fruit juice and soda the same way. The best beverages to offer your child are water and milk. Save the sodas for special occasions.
Add fruit to your child's meals. When you pack your child's lunch, add some fruit to the mix. Apple slices, clementines and grapes are terrific options. You can also add blueberries, strawberries or bananas to your child's cereal in the morning.
Offer vegetables at dinner. The most important thing is to have veggies on your child’s plate consistently. He doesn't have to finish them all, but encourage him to at least try the broccoli or carrots. Eventually — and it may be a few months — he will become accustomed to having veggies with his meals and to eating them more often. Don't have time to cook veggies? Open up a bag of raw carrots or slice up a cucumber.
Introduce your child to salad. You can do a fun taste test with salad dressings and find out what appeals to your child. Be sure to show her the right amount to use — her salad shouldn’t be drenched in French.
Encourage dipping. Once you find out which dressings or condiments your child likes, serve them with his veggies so he can dip away. You may think ketchup with broccoli is disgusting, but if it gets him to eat a few pieces it will be worth it.
Cut out daily desserts. Your child doesn't have to have a cookie every lunchtime and ice cream after every dinner. Maybe include dessert in her lunchbox once or twice a week, and do the same at dinnertime.
Be a good role model. If you are consistent with modeling healthy eating habits and offering your child fruits and vegetables, eventually your child will follow your example.