Helping your children to form healthy eating habits does not have to be a battle of wills. After all, if you turn every meal into a battle neither of you will actually enjoy your food. However, there are some ways to help your child eat healthier without having to resort to ultimatums or giving up completely. Here are some ways you can encourage healthy eating habits in your child:
1. Before Birth- Even before your children are born they learn healthy eating habits. Your food that you eat while pregnant helps to form the baby’s palate for food preferences. This means that the wider the variety of foods you eat while pregnant, the more likely it is for your child to want to eat a variety of foods later on. Even after birth when you are breast feeding your child what you eat matters. Your food’s flavors get transmitted through your breast milk and into your child. Choose a variety of healthy foods so that your baby can get a taste for the right kind of eating. As your child is introduced to solid foods, try to pick a range of flavors. Almost all solid food will be rejected right away, but don’t give up. It takes many tries to get a baby to eat a new flavor but it will pay off down the road when you have a toddler who will eat anything.
2. Texture Counts- The texture of food can affect the taste just as much as the smell can. Think about it, would you want to drink milk that smelled like asparagus? Or eat crispy ice cream? Textures make a big difference to kids too. If your kids don’t like cooked carrots, for example, try offering them fresh baby carrots. The texture difference may be the only thing holding them back.
3. See it, Do It- What you eat matters to your kids. If you have an unhealthy diet, what makes you think your kids will not follow in your footsteps? In order to encourage healthy eating habits in your children you should practice those habits yourself. You should also not make a big deal out of avoiding certain foods. We all have foods we don’t like. For example, onions. However, our children may like them but will never try them because we talk about how awful they are. Instead, try to taste those foods with your kids with no facial expressions or derisive commentary. They may end up liking it and you will not be hurt in the least.
4. Variety Is Good- We know that a wide variety of healthy foods is necessary for healthy kids, but does your home offer a wide variety to choose from? Often times we get stuck with the same old standbys. While apples and bananas are good for you, other fruits like mangos and kiwi are great too. Mix it up to give your kids a wide range of healthy food choices. Eating seasonally is a great way to try new foods that are on sale and taste great. If you eat according to what is growing in your area, you also support the local economy, reduce carbon emissions, and have healthier, fresher food.
5. Preparation- No kid wants to come home and prepare an elaborate snack. Instead, have already prepared healthy snacks available for them. Fruit can be peeled and sliced and then lightly sprinkled with lemon juice to keep it from turning brown. Veggies can be washed and cut into bite sized chunks for snacking or mixed up for variety. On the go snacks like dried cereal and trail mix can be in handy baggies ready to grab. These small changes can make a big impact in your child’s eating habits.
6. Fun and Flavorful- We all like to eat food that looks nice, and for kids’ food that is fun is a great way to encourage healthy eating. Foods on a stick, foods with ‘eyes’, rainbows, animal shapes and more are all appealing to kids and help them choose healthier foods. You can make a butterfly out of bananas and apples, make a snail out of an orange, make a forest out of broccoli, complete with a ‘yellow brick road’ of baby carrots. There are all kinds of fun ideas to get kids to eat their veggies and fruits. I like to cut fruits into fun shapes with a mini cookie cutter. Fast and easy and kids love it!
7. Mixed Up Snacks- As I mentioned, trail mix is a great on the go snack. But did you know you can make your own even healthier version? Choose nuts and dried fruits your kids like and mix up your own trail mix. Or mix up different healthy cereals for a snack on the go. You can also add in tasty treats like animal crackers, pretzels and dried berries. A very simple trail mix that my kids love is roasted, unsalted almonds and dried cranberries. The combo is great and is packed with protein to keep them full even longer.
8. Outlawed- In my house, no food is considered off limits. From sushi to a Big Mac, we have tried it all. This balanced approach to eating helps my kids feel more comfortable making healthy choices. By not limiting them or outlawing unhealthy food, I do not make it a temptation to ‘cheat’. Instead, we decide as a family what would be wise to eat and what makes us feel good. An indulgence of chocolate cake or chips once in a while doesn’t hurt and makes it much easier to stick to a healthy diet the rest of the time.
9. Explanations- As your kids get older you should take the time to sit down and talk to them about why healthy eating is important. Make it a part of every meal time. You can talk about what portion size should be, how much of each type of food you should eat and what healthy versus unhealthy choices are. Your kids need to understand why healthy food is better to make these habits truly lasting beyond your front door. Once kids grasp the concept they are much more likely to stick with their healthy eating habits throughout their lifetime.
10. Take It Easy- Do not make every meal time a battle between you and your kids. Instead, make meal time just another opportunity to share with them important information they need to know. Desserts should not be a reward or vegetables a punishment. Instead, take a healthy approach to healthy eating by making it not such a big deal. Your kids will learn good habits through living, not through being forced into it. Set a good example and offer healthy food choices and your job will be much easier.
Remember that meal time is a great time to talk to your kids. Kids that eat with parents are healthier physically, mentally and emotionally. Take this time to discuss what healthy living means, how your family can stay healthy and what choices they make through their day to live healthier, more productive lives.
About the Author:
Blogging was a natural progression for Allison once she graduated from college, as it allowed her to combine her two passions: writing and children. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with www.nannyclassifieds.com. She can be reached through email: allisonDOTnannyclassifiedsATgmail (you know the rest).