It’s no secret that what we eat has a profound impact on our health. That’s why it’s important to engrain healthy eating habits in our children from a young age. Good nutrition is essential to proper growth and development in kids, and can also prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer later in life.
Here are 7 routes to helping your children develop and enjoy healthy eating.
- Set a good example yourself. Children mimic the eating habits of their parents, so if you make healthy choices they are more likely to do the same. Not only does this help your children, but it’s great motivation for you to be as healthy as you can be too! If eating healthy is something you struggle with, voice that to your children. Being honest about your struggles with eating not only promotes honesty from your own kids, but also begins to foster the first steps toward discussing what ‘healthy eating’ means to each individual.
- It’s important to involve them in meal planning and preparation whenever possible so they understand where their food comes from and how it affects their bodies. There are so many important documentaries and books readily available too, some more digestible for children than others. Here is a short list of some books and films that you could read and watch to better educate your kids!
- Food Inc.
- Forks Over Knives
- The China Study
- Fast Food Nation
- Eat together as a family as often as possible and include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy at every meal. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks and snacks high in saturated or unhealthy fats.
- Everyone is different! It’s important to remind your children that each individual has different dietary needs. While there are always certain truths about healthy eating that remain consistent throughout varying bodies and lifestyles, there are also so many varying factors. Don’t cast a simple monotone blanket over what it means to “eat healthy”.
- Teach them about nutrition – Explain why certain foods are better for them than others without being too preachy or negative. Help them understand how different nutrients affect their growing bodies in positive ways. Use fun educational materials like books, comics or websites designed specifically for kids. This should be fun for you too, so don’t be scared to admit when you don’t know something and learn alongside your kids!
- Get them involved – Involve your kids in grocery shopping and cooking meals whenever possible so they can learn more about where their food comes from and how it’s prepared.. Let older children help plan menus, plant a garden or pack their own school lunches using guidelines you provide.. Younger children can wash veggies, tear lettuce leaves or mix ingredients.. Not only will this teach valuable skills but it may also make them more likely to eat what they helped prepare!
- Avoid using food as a reward or punishment; instead make meals enjoyable times to socialize. Serve new foods alongside familiar favorites so there’s always something everyone will enjoy.. Don’t force children to clean their plates; instead let them listen to their hunger cues and stop eating when they feel full.. And don’t forget dessert! Enjoying occasional sweet treats together can show kids that healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. Just be sure desserts are served in moderation along with plenty of nutrient-rich options throughout the day.
What we feed our children is as important as what we feed ourselves. Eating healthy doesn’t mean forcing spinach down your kid’s throat anymore. It can be fun for parents and kids, and it will lead to a happier life as the kids grow up!