Fast food and processed food have become a part of our culture. Combine that with tablets and devices and a generation of kids who rarely play outside, and you have a recipe for a healthy lifestyle challenge. But you can help. Here is how:
A Guide to Healthy Eating for Kids
You carry with you many of the habits that you developed as a child. It can also be said of your eating habits. A child who drinks a lot water as a child will probably continue to do so into adulthood. Follow these healthy eating tips to help your children succeed.
1) Change your approach.
Over time, strict restrictions on food can lead to eating disorders. Allowing treats and junk food occasionally will keep them from becoming more appealing as “forbidden” food. Balance treats, sweets and junk foods with healthy eating and regular exercise. Avoid labeling food as good or unhealthy, and instead try to link healthy foods with your child’s interest. You can tell your child that eating lean proteins will help them to be strong in sports, or that antioxidants promote healthy hair.
2) Offer them options.
Allowing your children to make their own food choices will empower them. Overall, you can choose the meal and snack options but give them plenty of choices, so they have some control. You can give them choices with toppings, sauces, and condiments. You can also give them choices at snack time. Include some healthy options with treats and give them guidelines.
3) Teach your children to listen to their body.
Remind your children to stop eating if they feel full. You should never force them to finish their food, whether or not they are hungry. Encourage them to only eat what they are hungry for at each meal. Leftovers can be eaten another time. Ask them questions to help them learn how to tell when they are full. Ask, “Is your stomach feeling full?”
4) Create a schedule.
Create a daily schedule of eating that will keep them eating at least every 3-4 hours. Include three meals, two snacks, and plenty of fluids. This schedule will balance their blood sugar and diet, which in turn improves their mood. Keep a cooler stocked in your car to avoid fast food.
5) Get them involved.
Include your children in the food preparation process. They will be more likely to eat healthily. Allow them to help with the planning of meals, shopping for groceries, and simple food preparation. Teach them to select produce at the grocery store. Let them help you with simple recipes, such as frozen yogurt Popsicles.
6) Have healthy snacks on hand.
What food is available in your home is up to you. Stock your kitchen with healthy snacks and foods. You will find that your children will eat whatever you put in front of them. When they are younger, keep healthy snacks on shelves that are lower and easier to reach. So, they can easily grab healthy snacks. Plan ahead to avoid sacrificing healthy food on the road. In your car’s cooler, keep sliced carrots, apples, whole grain crackers and raisins.
7) Be savvy when it comes to new foods.
Introduce new foods slowly to your child. One or two new foods are enough. Do not put food on your child’s “no list” just because they reject it once. It takes 5-10 exposures for children to get used to a food. You can help them to understand that their body might need time to adjust to a new taste before they enjoy it. Do not give up!
Your example goes a long way.
You are constantly teaching your children about how to live and be a human. Your children are constantly watching you and storing this information in their minds. This affects their behavior. Allow them to see you choosing healthy snacks and meals. They will imitate what they see. What they see you doing, they will imitate.
You Are What You Eat
Fueling your body properly is essential to its optimal performance. Your brain is no exception. Give your children the best chance for a successful life and a healthy education. Start with this guide on healthy eating habits for children.