In many households, one person is in charge of food shopping -- and has lots of power. "They lay the groundwork for healthy eating habits," says Babs Benson, registered nurse and director of the weight management program at Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Va.
To do the job well:
* Get rid of your own misconceptions. Whole-wheat bread and low-fat ice cream might have tasted like cardboard when you were a child, but many products have greatly improved.
* Avoid open-ended choices. Instead of asking, "What do you want to eat?," offer two or three nutritious options. Encourage variety and new items.
* Don't reward noneaters. If a child doesn't eat dinner, no favorite snack later in the evening. If you can't stand seeing him hungry, offer something "plain" such as a piece of fruit.
* Don't replenish treats right away. Junk food and sugary drinks should be for special occasions, not part of the everyday supply.
* Create easy access to produce. Wash and slice fruits and vegetables and store them in visible spots on the counter or in the refrigerator.
* Share what good foods can do now. Kids may not relate to the word "health" or talk of future wellness. But they'll like hearing about strong bones and muscles, smart brains, clear skin and shiny hair.
* Plan ahead ... Prepare a weekly menu before going to the grocery store. You're more likely to stick to a list, eat healthier and save money.
* ... and plan for busy days. Buy thin cuts of meat or fish such as turkey cutlets or tilapia that cook quickly and are nutritious.
* Involve everyone. Let kids help with the menu, shopping and cooking -- or even grow a small vegetable garden. Teach them to read labels and avoid products with a long list of ingredients, especially words they can't pronounce.