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Teaching Food Smarts

Making cookies and potato chips off-limits might sound like a good idea, but it'll backfire. Not only do kids end up wanting the banned items more, but they may feel bad about it, and then link food with guilt or shame, says Jennifer Orlet Fisher, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center, in Houston. Better: Teach your child how to eat wisely.

Don't label.
Without referring to "bad" or "junk" foods, explain that lots of things can be included in a healthy diet, as long as you consider how often and how much of a particular food you eat.

Get her involved in the kitchen.
Children love to help, and it's a fun way to learn. Even a young child can rip up lettuce, toss a salad, or mash potatoes.

Go shopping.
Show how to select healthy foods by turning a trip to the grocery store into a scavenger hunt. For instance, your child might look for fruits and veggies that start with the letter "C" (cantaloupe, cherries, celery).

Provide choices.
Kids are entitled to food preferences, so give your child a say  -- but not too much. You can limit picks to healthy fare: "Want a turkey or a tuna sandwich?" or "Pretzels or crackers for a snack?"

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