Encouraging your children to develop healthy eating habits will provide them with valuable resources they can use throughout their entire lives. Although children can be notoriously picky eaters, making small and gradual changes can instill in them the foundations of healthy habits for years to come. When you encourage healthy eating habits early in your children, it should last a lifetime.
5 Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits in Your Kids
Include Your Kid in Meal Planning and Shopping
Involve your children in your household’s meal planning, and you’ll create the perfect opportunity to teach them about nutrition. For example, you might find yourself explaining why eating pizza every single night is not the best idea, or how vegetables can provide important nutrients to power playground activities. In addition, you’ll learn more about your children’s food habits, and they will feel a personal sense of accomplishment. This may even prompt them to try new foods or give unlikely foods a second chance.
Provide Healthy Options
Hungry children will eat whatever’s available at home. Filling your snack cupboard exclusively with healthy snack options will naturally lead to them eating more healthy foods. If your children are used to eating only very sweet, salty, or processed foods, make the changes gradually, so their taste buds have time to adapt. This will reduce the likelihood of stubborn refusal from extra-picky kids. Sliced vegetables and hummus, fresh fruit, nuts, and lightly salted popcorn are all excellent options. Prepare your own snacks (as opposed to buying pre-made, processed snack products) to reduce sugar and sodium consumption.
Be an Example of Healthy Eating Habits
Children always observe the world around them and subconsciously pick up on what is considered right or wrong. They readily absorb the habits displayed before them, especially when the habits come from their parents. Be an example of healthy eating habits for your children. This means developing your own healthy eating habits and committing to them, at least when you’re around them. If your children see you order a salad at a restaurant, they might be more inclined to do so themselves. Children pick up on actions more than words, so it’s crucial that you follow your own rules.
Designate Eating Areas
To encourage mindfulness around eating, designate specific areas of your house for eating. For many families, this means not eating in front of the television, while playing video games, or while on the computer. You can also make a rule disallowing cellphones at mealtimes to further encourage awareness around eating. Being fully present at mealtimes not only prevents overeating, but it encourages social interaction and enjoyment of the meal.
Don’t Bribe Your Children
Although it can be tempting to bargain with your children, bribes establish an unhealthy relationship with food. Rather than pressuring your children to eat foods they dislike or risk punishment, offer more choices or try preparing foods in new ways that might be more appealing. This encourages your children to remain curious as it reduces the likelihood of dinner ending in an argument.
Whether your child is just learning to read or preparing for a high school sporting event it’s never too late to encourage healthy eating habits. Although it can be challenging to stick to a diet plan as a busy parent, giving your children the tools to develop such habits now will help them make healthier choices throughout their entire lives. Making healthy snack choices is key.