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How to Keep Kids Away From Fast Food

Eating fast foods is an easy and inexpensive alternative to cooking meals at home, especially on busy days.

While an occasional fast food meal may be acceptable, regular consumption is habit forming and nutritionally inadequate for children. Rich in sugar, fat and sodium, fast foods increase calorie intake, which causes weight gain. Feeding young children meals that follow the guidelines of the United States Department of Agriculture's MyPlate will encourage them to try foods from different food groups. Educating kids about the importance of healthy meals and consequences of fast foods on health will help them make the right food choices.
Be a Role Model

Children imitate and follow behaviors that they see. As a parent, set an example by avoiding fast foods as well calorie-rich snacks and drinks. Control portion sizes of meals and snacks, eat plenty of vegetables, salads and fresh fruits but small servings of calorie-rich desserts and snacks such as ice cream, cookies and chips. Eat most meals at home and pack healthy lunches and snacks before heading out for play or shopping to decrease the temptation of eating out. When eating out, patronize restaurants that provide healthy meal alternatives to fast foods and opt for water instead of soda.
Impart Nutrition Education

Educate your children on the importance of different nutrients and foods as you allow them to help in shopping and preparing meals. Provide examples of why some foods are healthy and should be eaten regularly such as milk and dairy foods that contain calcium for strong bones, grilled meat, burgers and beans that provide protein to help them grow big and tall and fresh fruits and vegetables, which prevent illnesses due to the presence of vitamins and minerals. If asked, explain that the lack of nutrients and extra calories present in fast foods can cause obesity and other diseases.
Promote Physical Activity

To decrease exposure to fast food advertisements and discourage inactivity, limit the time your children spend in front of the TV and computer. Instead, promote an active lifestyle by biking, hiking, swimming, skating and going on family walks with them. Encourage group play with friends and, if possible, enroll them in sports activities of their choice such as soccer, tennis, karate, gymnastics and ballet. On days when they cannot go out, let them dance to their favorite music, jump rope, hula-hoop and even help with household chores.
Homemade Fast Food

Instead of taking your children out for fast food, make healthy versions of fast food at home. Ask them to help as you make oven-baked fries, chicken nuggets, chicken strips, tacos and burgers in your kitchen. Add healthy vegetable and fruit salads, fruit juices or fruit smoothies and desserts such as frozen yogurt to these meals and enjoy a family meal in the comfort of your home. Developing the taste for homemade meals will help decrease the need for restaurant-style fast foods in children.
Provide Nutritious Alternatives

Include whole-wheat breads and bagels, lean cuts of meats and poultry, beans and legumes, sugar-free breakfast cereals and brown rice in meals. Most kids between 2- to 18-years-old need 1 to 2 cups of fruits and 1 to 3 cups of vegetables daily, according to the USDA. Serve healthy, filling snacks such as bananas, apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and celery with peanut butter. Additionally, prepare trail mixes at home using nuts, seeds, raisins and dried cranberries.

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