10 Ways To Instill Healthy Eating Practices In A Child
With fast food so easily available, it's not hard to lose track of healthy eating practices. What kid wants a salad over a burger? But it's important to instill and encourage healthy eating habits at an early age. And we know that can be difficult as some kids can be picky eaters and not able to express their likes and dislikes very well, but nevertheless, it's your job as a parent to teach them what's best. To help with this, here are 10 ways you can get your kids excited about (or at least aware of) healthy eating.
1. Stress the importance of the food groups and the food pyramid - Kids learn about the food groups really early in school, so seeing it being practiced at home will aid in their understanding of its importance. Make sure your kid(s) knows what the suggested serving for their age group is and encourage them to count it out during the day.
2. Identify what healthy foods they do like and do your best to make it often, in a variety of ways - Oh, your child likes peppers? Great, here are raw peppers, cooked peppers, peppers on pizza, peppers in stir-fry, sauteed peppers, stuffed peppers....Recognizing and praising their good eating habits will help them understand its importance, and serving it in different ways can help open doors to more healthy eating.
3. Control sugar intake - instead of having desserts after lunch and dinner every day, maybe pick a few days to indulge. Make sugary foods a treat rather than an expectation, and teach kids to recognize which foods are the sugary ones so they can be aware and learn to manage it themselves. Don't allow sugary foods/treats to be easily accessible or the go-to.
4. Grow your own food - Kids will likely be more inclined to eat vegetables if they grew it themselves from seeds or saw the growth in their own backyard. Either in a garden or in pots, grow carrots, tomatoes, peas, or whatever you can. Even herbs like basil and parsley can be grown.
5. Encourage healthy snacks - it's so easy to grab cookies or chips to snack on, especially on the go, but that's not a good idea. If kids are hungry for a snack, suggest fruits or veggies, or healthier junk food like crackers. If they refuse it, then they can wait until a meal.
6. Lead by example - kids are very impressionable, so have family meals and show them that everyone is eating healthy, and they must too. Make sure you're avoiding the junk food and following the food groups as well, especially in their presence.
7. Try to make eating fun - obviously, we are not encouraging playing with your food, but perhaps your child will eat raw carrots if they can dip them in a dressing. Maybe they'll eat a sandwich if you cut it in the shape of a heart. By making the food a little more enjoyable, they'll be more inclined to eat it.
8. Try healthier versions of their favourite foods - if your kid(s) love pizza, then buy dough, make your own sauce, grate your own cheese, and enjoy a less greasy, healthier pizza from your own oven. You can make anything from burgers to fries to tacos, but doing it at home will allow for less salt and grease to be added, and is probably a lot cheaper. Bonus points if you get your kid(s) to help you prepare these meals. Have them grate the cheese or peels the potatoes or knead the dough. By having them involved in the process, they'll get an understanding for not only how to cook but also what healthy ingredients can be used.
9. Watch the drinks - we all know that pop is pretty unhealthy, but what about the juices? Those are often loaded with sugar too. When grocery shopping, take a second to read the ingredients and buy 100% fruit juices with no sugar added. At home, encourage drinking water as well, or mixing the juice with water.
10. Consider portion sizes - of course you want your kids to eat enough and grow up strong, but forcing them to eat everything on the plate isn't a good idea. Nor is having huge portions. Do some research on sizing based on ages and try to stick to that. Moderating sizes, even of healthy food, sets kids up for moderation in the future.
Changing your eating habits is not the easiest task, but to pass on crucial knowledge of healthy eating to your kid(s), it's worth it. Take your time and expect challenges, but know that everyone will come out happier and healthier in the end!