Creating Healthy Habits
Healthy eating habits begin early in childhood and continue into adolescence. Parents and
caregivers play important roles as models and supporters of healthy habits. Weight problems can
be unhealthy and challenging to change. Prevent obesity by eating well and being active,
starting at an early age.
Listed below are tips for creating healthy habits that will last a lifetime:
1. Have set times for meals and snacks to prevent skipping meals or grazing.
2. Eat meals at the kitchen table, rather than on the couch or in bed. It can be hard to pay
attention to body signals if eating while watching TV, playing the computer or doing
3. Start the day with a good breakfast. Skipping breakfast can lead to overeating later in the
day and poor performance in school, sports and work. Choose at least one food from
each category below.
ξ Lean protein: low fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs or nut butter
ξ High-fiber grain: oatmeal, whole grain cereals or whole wheat breads
ξ Fruit: fresh, frozen, dried or canned in 100% juice
4. Sit down for a family dinner on most nights. Use the time to socialize. Start a tradition,
like asking each family member to share the best part of his or her day.
5. Allow children, when able, to serve their own meals. If a child puts too much food on the
plate, use it to talk about healthy eating and sharing the meal with the whole family.
6. Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and limit juice to 4 ounces daily.
7. Offer a new dish alongside fruits, vegetables and a favorite food. Do not get frustrated by
a picky eater. It can take 10-20 exposures before a child learns to like a food.
8. Help kids tune into their body signals – eat when hungry and stop when satisfied. Wait 20
minutes before having second helpings. If still hungry, have more fruits or veggies.
9. Avoid the “clean plate club.” Children usually know when they’ve had enough to eat. If
they choose not to eat, have them wait until the next meal or snack time.
10. Limit eating out (or take-out) to no more than 1x/week and order a child-size meal or
split an adult entrée.
11. Aim for 3 servings of milk daily. Avoid excess sugar from drinks like juice, chocolate
milk, fruit punch, or soda. Offer water or calorie-free flavored water between meals.
12. Portion snacks into a bowl or onto a plate instead of eating out of the package.
13. Be a smart shopper – use a grocery list and avoid shopping on an empty stomach. Help
kids make healthy choices by stocking the pantry and fridge with plenty of fresh,
14. Instead of using food as a reward, consider other items like stickers, books, crafts or a
favorite activity instead.
15. Limit screen time (TV, computer, video games, cell phone) to 2 hours per day.
16. Be active. Aim for 60 minutes per day. Take a walk, ride bikes, swim, dance or play hide
Healthy Eating/Activity Goals
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of the
phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at www.uwhealth.org/nutrition
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500.
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at:
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 1/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services Department and the Department
of Nursing. HF#392