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Volume II
April 30, 2005

Learning Healthy Eating Habits

Learning healthy eating habits and skills is another significant benefit for children who share meals with their families. According to the MSU Extension Service* healthy eating habits, such as eating when hungry and stopping when full, eating a variety of healthy foods, and trying and accepting new foods.

Eating when hungry and stopping when full teaches internal regulation of food intake, which is easier to learn when young than when an adult. If people rely on external regulation of food, such as time, food ads, or super-size food portions, it is very easy to eat too many calories and gain weight.

Another important eating habit is learning to eat a variety of healthy foods. With the convenience of fast foods, it is easy for children and adults to prefer higher fat, salt, sugar and caloric foods. By offering healthy food choices at meals, children learn to accept the taste of healthier foods and are more willing to choose these foods as they grow.

Trying and accepting new foods is another important developmental eating behavior for children. Children commonly need about seven tries at eating a new food before they accept the new food. Experts no longer recommend “cleaning your plate” for children, but rather recommend that adults insist the child try all foods on his or her plate, even if it amounts to just two forkfuls.

*Sandra J. Bailey, Ph.D., CFLE, MSU Extension Family and Human Development Specialist; Lynn Paul, Ed.D., R.D., MSU Extension Foods and Nutrition Specialist; and Phyllis Dennee, M.S., CFCS, MSU Extension Nutrition Education Specialist

* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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