15 Simple Ways To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy
Why, when, and what your children eat in the home can stick with them well into adulthood. But getting them to eat more healthily is far from a piece of cake.
You know it’s not good for your kids; fueling them on digestive biscuits, chocolate bars, and frozen pizzas and ready meals. But you have a million and one other things to do, and keeping your kids running on packaged foods is efficient. It keeps them happy and active, and not to mention saves you bags of time and money.
It’s unfortunate that these foods also just happen to be some of the unhealthiest choices. What makes them so great (and so cheap) is that they’re often ladened with trans fats, refined sugar, and artificial ingredients.
But you know this, and you also know that shaking up your child’s eating habits isn’t easy – yet the effort to do so will pay off wondrously. You just need some help and encouragement to make that first step!
And so you don’t fall short of steps to take, hear’s fifteen of them. Use this list to change your child’s eating habits today – just pick one or two to start, cross off ones that have failed, try out different methods, and remember, what you’re doing for their future health is priceless.
Don’t place restrictions on foods
As anyone that’s ever been on a diet will know, restricting certain foods does nothing but intensify the temptation and craving for them. Not only that, but by labelling foods as complete ‘no-no’s can increase the risk of children developing eating disorders later in life.
Keep healthy food on demand and snack food out of sight
At least when they’re home, your child has to stick to eating whatever they can find in the kitchen. Keep fresh fruit in sight, not buried in a drawer in the fridge, and sweet snacks tucked away out of sight.
Praise healthy choices
Recognising when your child picks fruit over a chocolate bar, and giving them some positive reinforcement can work wonders for instilling lasting healthy food habits. Make a remark about how those apples are protecting them from getting a cold or how the carrots are boosting their vision.
Don’t nag about unhealthy choices
If your child is grabbing a few too many biscuits before running out the door, pointing them to healthier options is a much more effective way to change their behaviour than nagging. The next time they dive into the cupboards, they may just remember what you said about bananas and decide to grab one instead.
Avoid describing foods as “good” or “bad”
The idea here is to avoid attaching emotion to foods and simply point out the facts. Let your child know the benefits of the foods they’re eating; how the fats in nuts and seeds are beneficial for their skin and hair; the protein in lean meats and tofu is good for their muscles, and the antioxidants in fruits can boost their brain function and help prevent them getting sick.
Don’t use food as a rewards or punishments
Rewarding your kids with their favourite home cooked meal every now and again is harmless, but using food regularly as an incentive or prize can foster an unhealthy relationship with it. The same can be said for taking away foods for bad behaviour; the more you restrict, the more they’ll want – particularly later in life.
Always eat at the dinner table
Proper sit-down dinners with the family is a dying tradition, fading away to mindless consuming in front of the television or other screens. Getting into this routine early with your kids is great for their eating habits and has even shown to reflect on their long-term attitude and behaviour away from the dinner table.
Hand over some of the control to the kids
Give your kids a role in the decision making by finding out how they rate certain dishes and foods. Although you’ll need to filter the carb-heavy meals from the veggie options, a little bit of involvement in the process will help your child feel better about what they’re eating.
Plan your meals in advance
A great way to prevent last minute pizzas or ready meals, planning your meals is also a great way to ensure they’re getting a balanced diet. If a weekly menu is a little too daunting, try two or three days at a time, adjusting the type of meals according to their activity schedule.
Don’t be a short-order cook
Your job isn’t to stand by, take orders and head back to the kitchen to whip them up on demand. If your child doesn’t like or isn’t enjoying what they’re being served, let them know they can help you prepare the food or go shopping with you.
Be stealthy with healthy ingredients
Hummus, baba ganoush, salsas, tzatsiki, cauliflower cheese, caramelised carrots; there are a million and one ways to make your kids eat more vegetables; all you need is a little creativity and stealth. Dips are particularly good as kids love finger food – they can get their hands dirty and you can get them eating more veg – carrots, celery sticks, apple slices – to do the dipping.
Take your kids food shopping with you
It’s often easier to do the shopping alone, but it offers a valuable opportunity for children to get a connection with food and see it in its raw state. Even though the supermarket isn’t a farm or farmer’s market, it’s no doubt where they’ll purchase their food throughout their lives. And of course, seeing where food comes from will make them more invested in the outcome.
Don’t buy into marketing for kids
Packaged foods that need bright colours, a cute mascot and a catchy slogan to be sold are generally not good for us. It’s all clever marketing designed to make products, which are often loaded with synthetic ingredients, additives, colourings, and chemicals, more appealing and rememberable. Play it smart and gather your own evidence – how it tastes and makes you feel.
Make breakfast the most important meal of the day
It’s the most important, and ideally, the largest meal of the day. A good breakfast full of complex carbohydrates and good fats, like oats, whole wheat bread, eggs, and avocados, can be the difference between groggy afternoons and sustained energy and concentration throughout the day. It’s also important that children kick start their metabolism early in the day to avoid their bodies being starved of energy, which can cause difficulties with maintaining a healthy weight.
Be the model eater
You’ve tried everything and your child still refuses to eat healthily. In this case, it can often be that the real problem is not with the child, but the parent. We can’t expect our kids to follow eating guidelines, if we can’t even stick to them ourselves. In order to foster good habits in the home, it’s important to practice what you preach so your child can lead by example. Actions speak a thousand times louder than words, so you may find after changing your actions you need to do much less preaching.
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