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How to Teach Healthy Eating

By Erica Roth

Healthy eating is a concept that is much talked-about, but some many people do not understand what exactly healthy eating entails. Medical professionals, parents and teachers are among the people who might be responsible for teaching healthy eating habits to children and others who need to change their ways. Inviting participation for meal planning, giving examples of serving sizes and showing by example can all be effective ways to teach healthy eating.

  1. Explain the basics about different types of foods and why some are considered healthy and others are not. Teach your students about the negative effect saturated fats have on your arteries through plaque buildup, which leads to high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease. Explain how fats and sweets can increase health risks when eaten in abundance, without offering nutritional value. Ask your doctor or a local nutritionist if they have any helpful literature to use in your teaching.

  2. Use visual aids to teach healthy eating habits in terms of appropriate serving size. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) compares food servings to everyday household items that may make serving sizes easier to understand when a person sees the actual item in from of him. Three ounces of meat or fish should be the size of a deck of playing cards. Pasta or rice should fit into a cupcake or muffin liner paper. One serving of produce is about the size of a tennis ball, and a 1 oz. serving of cheese equals four normal sized dice, such as you would use in a board game.

  3. Make healthy eating habits a game to teach children what is good for their bodies. Terry Till, a dietitian based in Atlanta, explains that encouraging children to choose a colorful variety of foods will help them learn healthy habits, and can be fun. Foods that vary in hue often contain different types of vitamins. Eating a "rainbow" gives you a wide range of nutrients needed for a balanced diet, and can also keep your children entertained when in a restaurant or grocery store.

  4. Teach healthy eating by example. If you are trying to educate your family about ways to change their diet for the better, start eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and lean proteins yourself instead of relying on processed foods, fatty cuts of meat and foods high in fat. If your teaching is more formal in the classroom, consider taking a field trip to a farmer's market or supermarket where food choices, both good and bad, are laid out. Plan a meal together after discussing the merits and disadvantages of your menu choices.

  5. Eat meals more slowly and leisurely to teach the healthy habits of listening to your body's signals and knowing when you are full. Page Love, a specialist who works with patients with eating disorders, explains that most people eat more when they eat quickly; slowing down a meal can help keep servings at appropriate sizes, and gives you time for your stomach to let your brain know you have had enough. Rushing through a meal can also cause you to take in more air when you eat, which can lead to uncomfortable problems with gas.

  6. Offer choices. Many people find accepting something new--such as a new way of eating--difficult if they feel they do not have any choices. Provide your family with snacks, for example, that are similar to their old snacks but with a healthier twist. Air-popped popcorn is a good source of fiber but does not contain the fat of buttered, movie theater-style popcorn. Reduced-fat, whole grain crackers can satisfy the salty snack eater, yet are healthier than crackers made with refined, white flour.

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