Healthy Habits Means Healthy Kids
What children eat now affects their health for the rest of their lives. By promoting smart eating habits (combined with activity and exercise) you'll help your kids build healthier bones and teeth, and reduce their risk of acquiring life-threatening chronic disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.

The Skinny on Fat

Did you know fat in infants' and toddlers' diet is essential for neurological development? And unless your doctor counsels otherwise, it's recommended that kids aged 1 to 2 drink whole milk to ensure their diet includes enough fat. If they're growing normally, switching kids to low fat or skim milk is recommended at age 2. At this time your kid should regularly start eating foods that contain heart-healthy fats, such avocadoes, and dishes cooked with olive or canola oil.

But it's important to monitor your child's fat intake in order to prevent obesity and its health risks. According to, overweight kids are now contracting serious conditions that were previously associated only with adults, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels and metabolic syndrome.

Calcium and Healthy Bones

Healthy bones help prevent osteoporosis and fractures later in life. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D help promote healthy bones. Kids typically get enough vitamin D from sunlight and from egg yolks and fortified milk, but most don't get enough calcium in their diets.

To ensure children get enough calcium, serve them skim milk and other low-fat dairy products such as cheeses and yogurt with meals and as snacks. Choose calcium-fortified cereals and other foods (but avoid sugary ones), and include dark, green leafy vegetables in their diets. Lactose intolerant children and children who don't like milk can also get their calcium from vegetables and calcium-fortified foods, including tofu.

Sugar and Calories

Sugar contains "empty calories"-it has no nutritious benefit whatsoever. Diets that include too many calories cause children to become overweight. Too much sugar can also cause tooth decay and diabetes.

Milk and fruit juices, though nutritious in many ways, naturally contain high levels of sugar. Soda typically contains 10 teaspoons of sugar in an 8-ounce can. (That's 150 calories!) So limit your children's consumption of beverages that have a high sugar content and encourage them to drink more water. Also limit their consumption of sugary snacks, including dried fruits.

Read more at the Food Research and Action Center, National Institute of Child Health and Development, Centers for Disease Control and Preventions or SuperKidsNutrition.