How to Encourage Your Kids to Eat Healthy
When it comes to getting your kids to make healthy choices, eating nutritious meals may not be as difficult as you think. While it will be an easier task if you start with them from the beginning (yes, as infants), older children and teens can be persuaded to make better decisions regarding the food they put into their bodies. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the ability to make good food choices. A child’s ability to select foods that will keep his or her body healthy and disease free is the gift that will keep giving, because your child will teach their own children one day. The far-ranging implications of eating those peas and carrots is profound. Find a way to begin healthier eating with your family today. Here are a few ideas for encouraging children to eat healthier.
Be a Good Example
Children will model their behaviors and choices after their parents’ food decisions and statements about food. Instead of constantly barraging them with the healthy food language, simply be the example. Eat more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and select lower sugar alternatives for snacks and desserts. When opting for high calorie desserts or meals, frame it as the exception and not the rule. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet can go a long way to encouraging your kids to do the same. The old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do,” does not apply here.
Get Everyone Involved in Meal Planning
It is much easier to get everyone onboard if everyone has a say in what is going to be offered at the table and for snacking. Allowing young children to select from a list of options can be empowering for children and it teaches them to take responsibility for their own bodies. This creates time in the day for parents and children to make the meal together and to spend time with one another in a common chore.
Make Grocery Shopping an Adventure
Groceries do not always have to come from the supermarket. Many farmers markets have the same produce, and often in better quantity and quality, than the grocers. Children love to make special trips to pick out the perfect corn for dinner, or in-season berries. Dairy farms, u-pick farms are also excellent ways for younger children to learn about food production and where it originates, and to give the food that is gathered special meaning. Vegetables are elevated to a special status when they have been picked by your own hand.
They Will Choose Fruit
It is a myth that young children, when given the choice, will usually choose junk food over fruits. Place a gleaming bowl of raspberries or a box of cookies on the table, and chances are the raspberries will win each time. The color of the fruits naturally draws the eye and, besides being good for you, fruits are nature’s candy (without the empty calories). Make sure you have a wide assortment of fruit and bite-sized vegetables within easy reach for children when they want to self-serve a snack. Teens will appreciate the grab and go options of fruits and vegetables, especially if there is a low-calorie dip to go with them. Smoothies are a great way to get those required servings of fruits and vegetables, and they taste great.
New Food Phobias
Children will sometimes refuse to eat a food simply because they have never eaten it before. This is nature’s way of making sure they do not ingest something dangerous. Unfortunately, for parents trying to get their children to try something healthy for the first time, this failsafe can work against them. One way to introduce a new fruit or vegetable is to simply eat it yourself and offer them a bite of it. Other times, a good technique is to mention that someone the child admires likes this type of food. Start slowly.
Do Not be the Food Police
Forcing someone to eat a food he or she does not want to eat is a guarantee that this person will hate it for life. If your child refuses to try a new food, taste it or eat the entire portion of a new food, just continue to make it available. Making comments will only slow down the transition and the acceptance of a new food. In the end, your child may simply not like the taste of something. That is okay. There are many, many fruits and vegetables to try and discover. Discovering new fruits and vegetables together can be a fun outing and a great way to introduce new foods. Tasting them together can be a fun family event.
Moderation with Junk Foods
Cutting junk food out altogether actually works against you, because it develops the idea that the junk food is a guilty pleasure (which makes you and the kids want it even more). Having junk food occasionally, relegates it to foods that you sometimes have, which makes junk food no big deal. In the end, if there are other alternatives, the taste and desire for the junk food does go away.