Healthy eating is crucial to your life. It helps you perform your day-to-day tasks without any disruption. Moreover, it helps you live a longer and happier life by keeping you away from many chronic diseases. One research proves that the right food choices contribute to a long and healthy life. Owing to its importance, your kids need to learn about healthy eating in their childhood. Only then, they will able to adopt it when they grow up.
How To Teach Your Kids About Healthy Eating
The reminders of your grand ma’s anecdotes and your mother’s nagging are keeping you on the right path. If not, they must be making you feel guilty about that. Same will be the case for your kids. Therefore, it is imperative that you teach your kids about healthy eating.
In fact, it is more about inculcating the eating habits in your kids than mere teaching them. You need to be tactful while doing it, which means no nagging or lectures.
Here are a few ways to inculcate the eating habits in your kids.
1. Set a Good Example
Your kid observes more regarding what you do instead of what you say. He/she tries to copy you, so be their role model. If you want to teach the kids about healthy eating, adopt good eating habits yourself.
Abstain from consuming sugary drinks and junk food, especially in front of your kid. It will be more effective than lecturing the child about avoiding this stuff.
These days, schools are also very active in educating kids about healthy eating habits. Even when your kid learns that from your school, he/she is still going to notice the dietary patterns prevailing in their home. If you are fond of junky snacks, you cannot ask your kid to stay away from them. That is the basic rule of parenting.
2. Teach Your Kids about Healthy Foods
Kids need to understand that sugary drinks and junk food are unhealthy for them. The only way to do so is that you talk to them about nutrition. You can talk about the benefits and disadvantages of certain food items. You can tell them that the food items contain a specific type of nutrients. Also, tell them some of the stuff lying in their food can be bad for them.
For example, if you want to stop the kids from drinking sugary beverages, you can tell them about the components of these drinks. For example, you can explain to a four-year-old that he/she can get cavities if he eats so many chocolates.
Children are curious by nature. Use this curiosity while teaching them about healthy foods. Instead of telling them that meat is healthy, tell them it contains iron. Explain to them that iron gives them energy so they can play soccer. Use analogies that intrigue them and stimulate their imagination.
As for foods that you do not want your kids to be eating, you can say that candy does not have enough nutrients to help them grow or become strong. If they are partial to a harmful food item, tell them they can eat it occasionally.
3. Cook Special Meals for them
Kids love to be treated in a special way. They like attention and making them feel special is one of the ways to do so. If you want to encourage healthy eating, prepare special meals for them every once in a while. Include all the healthy items in this mean.
Tell them that since they are special, they get to have a special meal. This way, they will appreciate the food that they deemed boring previously. Also, include at least one of their favorite item in this meal, so they can enjoy eating as well.
4. Abstain from Monotony
Kids need a change every other day. Moreover, they like colors and creativity. So, stay away from monotony. Add colors to their food. If you are making a salad, do not forget to add apples along with the lettuce.
Moreover, if the kids do not like a certain item like broccoli, do not push it at that time. Later add it with their favorite food item, say chicken. Keep trying different recipes until the kid accepts broccoli without frowning.
You may have ensured the availability of a colorful variety of food when your kid was a toddler. You can do that again, but with different food items of course.
However, you need to ensure that you are maintaining the nutritional balance while keeping it fun at every meal. Your kid’s meal should include a protein source, veggie, fruit, whole grains, and healthy fats.
In fact, if you maintain this balance, your kid will remain satiated throughout the day. That will eliminate the need for munching and snacking in the middle of the meals.
5. Respect your Kid’s Intelligence
Once you have taught your kid about the healthy, unhealthy foods, keep a hands-off approach. Let your kid plan his/her lunch whenever possible. You can help them with providing tools like a nutrition-tracking app.
When kids learn to craft lunches or meals, they will actually be learning self-sustenance and self-sufficiency. Also, do not fuss over mistakes, which are bound to come. Everyone, be it a child or an adult, makes mistakes when they are new to something. Let your kids get acquainted with the task.
However, if you cannot let your kids be completely independent, let them have a say in the meal. Moreover, keep their options open. Healthy eating does not mean consuming foods that do not taste well. You can give them a variety of options regarding soups, steaks (not necessarily red meat), salads, and many others.
6. Eat Together
Having a family dinner is important in many ways. First, it allows you to have quality time with your family. You get to bond with your kids. All along, you also get to teach them a number of things from life lessons to eating manners and habits.
Family dinner is also the best time to teach your kids about healthy eating. In fact, it is more about showing them about healthy eating than telling them. So, regardless of how tight your schedule is, take time out and sit with your family to eat.
According to research, family meal entails a lot of benefits like:
- The family bond becomes stronger
- Kids tend to become well-adjusted
- All members eat nutritious meals
- Kids have fewer chances to develop obesity or become overweight
- Kids are less likely to become a drug addict or alcoholic
Moreover, your kids will not listen to you about healthy eating on their 20th birthday party. That is something you need to teach gradually and persistently throughout their childhood. Furthermore, the kids will not listen to you when they are hanging out with friends. So, family meal is the best time to teach them about mannerism, healthy eating, and also, life lessons. This is the time your kid is going to listen to you with full attention.
7. Seek their Opinion when Planning a Meal
The best way to teach a child something is to engage them with it. Treat your child as he/she is the wisest person and they will grow up to be one. This approach applies to everything, even if it is planning the meals.
In this way, the kid will get to revise his/her lessons about healthy eating. He/she will think by himself as to what food should be eaten based on the nutrients it contains.
Give your child simple choices. Ask them if they want carrots or broccoli with their chicken. Also, tell them healthy facts about each choice while discussing the menu.
You can also discuss a weekly menu with them. This way, you would not have to fuss over ‘what to make for lunch’ every other day. Consult with your children regarding the menu.
Engage your child as much as possible. In this way, you will get to spend quality time with your child along with teaching him/her about healthy eating.
8. Make it Fun
You should bear in mind that if you seem to be imposing it on your child, he/she will get fed up. The child may do what you are telling him/her but would only do it as a duty. Also, he may drop the habit as soon as he grows up.
You have had done it yourself. Remember the good habits your mother taught you but dropped them when there was nobody to nag you about them.
As for how to make it fun, you can achieve through games. One of the games to teach a child about healthy eating is ‘Yes or No.’
The game requires you to keep the weekly grocery catalogs. Take a little glue, scissors, two separate sheets of paper, and make two columns labeled ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ Yes is to contain healthy foods while no is to contain ‘sometimes’ food.
Ask your kid to cut out the pictures from the catalog (you can also do that together). Now, tell the kid to paste the pictures of the eatables in their respective column. Discuss the choices your kid has made and talk about the improvements.
You can play many other games to coax the kids into having fun with the whole foods. For example, you can look up the fun fact on Google and talk about those with each other.
9. Shop Together
Most of the people do not like dragging their kids along while going shopping. In fact, many of the people dread going to the supermarket themselves.
However, you can turn this tedious task into a family outing. You can engage your kids while shopping, and they will become much less of a trouble than they used to be.
You can ask them to pick all the healthy food items for you. Also, you can tell them they are the hygiene officer, and you need their help in picking out the clean, healthy foods.
Not only that it will boost their self-esteem, but it will also make shopping way easier for you. The problem will reemerge when you are done shopping the ‘healthy food.’ When you need to buy other stuff, you can give your child a healthy snack to keep him/her busy. This healthy snack can be anything from a pack of berries to a tub of cherry tomatoes.
It can be another opportunity for you to teach them about foods that they are not interested in knowing otherwise. In fact, you can take them to the nearby vegetable market to give them a great learning experience.
It may also help them with their school essay on ‘a day at the supermarket.’
10. Encourage Healthy Snacks
Children love snacking. Sometimes they are hungry while the other time, they are just bored. So make sure you have healthy snacks around when they ask for something to eat.
Keep handy the fresh fruits, nuts, cottage cheese, vegetable sticks with guacamole, and hummus as dips. You can also give the child homemade popcorn, which he/she will love.
You can also ask the kids to make their snack. While doing so, you can expose them to a different time. Enhance their food vocabulary beyond likes and dislikes. Teach them to use all five senses and let them make their own choices regarding what they like and what they do not.
11. Steer Clear of the Word ‘Diet’
Do not say the word ‘diet’ in front of your children. They are too young to comprehend the concept. They will start demarcating food as punishment and reward. Furthermore, do not reveal your ‘cheat sheet’ to them, as they will consider the ‘cheat’ food as something without which one cannot live.
Also, the kids should not get an idea that healthy eating is actually deprivation. Therefore, exhibit self-care and healthy attitude in front of your child, so that he/she picks the same.
What you should do actually is to pass healthy eating as fun family goals. Make it seem something that everyone wants to achieve, and people who achieve it are the real winners.
You can make a score chart. Tell your kids that every time you buy healthy food items, your family scores increases. Involve them in the process. Seek their advice on how they can add their family scores. It not only instills in them a sense of responsibility but also gives them a feeling of accomplishment.