A parent’s toolkit for healthy eating

stock photo of a child eating

stock photo of a child eating

March means spring break for some and perhaps a family trip. And you can bet most children won’t be eating healthy every day during those getaways. Room service pizza. Ice cream at a theme park. Hey, you’re on vacation after all.

Whether you’re snapping back to healthy habits after a warm weather excursion or just starting from scratch, it’s important for kids to establish good eating behaviors early.

Jaya Wadhawan, MD, an OSF HealthCare pediatrician, admits it’s tough.

“Unhealthy foods and beverages have been embedded in TV shows, websites and online games that children see,” she says. “That’s been shown to influence eating behaviors.”

In other words, a youngster sees their favorite cartoon character constantly drinking milkshakes, and they’ll want to follow suit.

Too much of that behavior could lead to a litany of issues, Dr. Wadhawan says: obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor heart health, fatty liver, poor bone growth, iron deficiency, cavities and even cancer later in life.

But on the flip side:

“Good nutrition can improve your cognitive function and memory. Children would benefit from that in the classroom,” Dr. Wadhawan says. “It improves your mood and energy. It boosts your immunity. And it supports muscle and bone growth.”