Getting your kids to adopt healthy eating habits is not as hard as it may seem; a great start is to turn time at the dining table into an opportunity to discuss food and instill healthy food values. There is no better chance to do this than right now. Today, 25 million kids are overweight or obese, and for them the future holds serious health consequences, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and even cancer.

As a dietitian and the mother of three, I know very well the allure of popular snack foods, fast food, and sugary breakfast foods. I’d be wrong to prohibit my children from eating what is such a big part of the world they live in. Rather than play food cop, I’m far more effective coaching my young ones by relating the benefits of eating well to what they care about, like winning at sports, doing well at school, having more energy for play.

I believe that parents have a responsibility to teach healthy habits by example. I’m also a big believer in maintaining routines at home that make healthy eating the norm and this can be done in a variety of ways:

Make breakfast a must

Studies have shown that school-aged children who skip breakfast perform worse on various cognitive tests than children who eat breakfast. Avoid sugary processed foods that digest quickly and leave kids tired. Instead, focus on simple kid-friendly breakfast foods that you easily make with wholesome ingredients that are filling and nutritious. For example, a simple egg and cheese sandwich on a whole grain English muffin is far better than a toaster Danish … and it’s not too difficult to convince kids why.

Variety is never boring!

Encourage children to try different fruits and vegetables – and the many tasty (and even unexpected) ways to enjoy them, like apple slices dipped in peanut butter or fruit yogurt. Serving a wide variety of whole foods is the best way to boost your child’s intake of vitamins and minerals.

The ‘Clean Plate Club’ is closed

Let your child decide when she is full or still hungry. It’s important for kids to get to know and follow their natural hunger cues.

Shop & Teach

I’m a big proponent of taking children along to do the family grocery shopping.  Make food shopping fun – not preachy. Explain why you choose the products you do, and give your kids the opportunity to help make decisions and even help with meal preparation.

For more tips, delicious and filling meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to live at a healthy weight, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the bestselling Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.