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Watch What <i>You</i> Eat

When it comes to teaching good nutrition, actions speak louder than words. Five common mistakes parents make:

1. Obsessing about fat
Why it's wrong: It teaches kids that all fat is bad, when in fact, it's an important part of everyone's diet  -- especially a growing child's.
Get it right: Include treats as part of your family's diet, so they don't have a special significance, says Susan Roberts, Ph.D., author of Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health. Also, stress moderation rather than deprivation.

2. Skipping breakfast
Why it's wrong: You need to show the importance of a morning meal. In fact, studies indicate that kids perform better in school if they eat breakfast, says Althea Zanecosky, a registered dietitian in Philadelphia.
Get it right: Wake up a few minutes earlier so you can eat with your child, or if you're on the run, mention the bagel you're taking with you or the cereal you'll be having later.

3. Drinking soda while your child has milk
Why it's wrong: You're sending the message that nutritionally empty  -- and often caffeine-loaded  -- drinks are an acceptable alternative to milk.
Get it right: Drink milk, water, or juice instead. You needn't make soda off-limits, but try not to have it at meals with your child.

4. Stocking the pantry with potato chips
Why it's wrong: You want to teach kids to choose healthy snacks.
Get it right: Buy baked chips, microwave popcorn, whole-wheat crackers, bread sticks, or low-fat snack mix. Also, keep fresh fruit, cheese, and yogurt on hand.

5. Telling kids what foods you hate
Why it's wrong: If you don't like it, your child may refuse to try it.
Get it right:If you're not a fan of, say, spinach or oatmeal, serve healthful alternatives you do like, such as broccoli or cold cereal. And encourage your toddler to try unfamiliar foods. "That's when kids will stick just about anything in their mouth," says Roberts. "If you introduce new tastes early on, they may be more likely to eat a varied diet as they get older."