By: Giulz Garcia
Let’s face it: making sure that your children are eating right and eating well is easier said than done. An eager parent who wants to do so at home has to face endless coaxing, several menu tweaks, and the frustrating “NO. I won’t eat that.” But, teaching healthy eating habits to kids while they’re young is worth the fight. Having a healthy relationship with food is one of the top nutrition tips for kids – healthy eating kids become healthy eating adults. But how can we do it? Where do we start?
A great way to jumpstart your healthy eating practice at home is to let a health care provider assess your kids’ health. This allows you to make a daily menu that is suited to your children’s needs. After knowing the important items to add to your daily menu, you can start learning and sharing healthy eating traditions with kids.
Make healthy choices at home
Instead of dictating your family’s meal, allow your kids to make food choices to help train them to choose right even if you’re not around. Make your home a place for healthy food options – fill your fridge with fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks. Encourage kids to choose water.
Eat meals as a family
The greatest lessons are often taught by example. Practice healthy eating habits together as a family. If your kids can see the way you eat slowly and how you’re conscious with portion control, they will eventually adopt it. Also, make mealtimes fun and exciting by making your kids see it as a time for conversation and bonding and not for scolding and arguing.
Help with food preparation
Allowing kids to help you with food preparation can help you identify their food preferences. This is also a perfect time to help your kids understand the importance of nutrition and wise food choices. Helping prepare meals together often give kids a great sense of accomplishment and there’s a high chance that young children will prefer to eat something they prepared.
Avoid mealtime distractions
Make sure that mealtimes are screen-free times. Turn off the TV and keep away the phone during meals. Make sure kids eat on the dining table and not in front of a TV or a computer. Distracted eating can make it difficult for kids to identify feelings of fullness which can lead them to overeat.
Soda, juice, and other sweetened drinks are some of the main causes of childhood obesity. At home, make water the top choice. Making your kids love water is not easy when other beverages taste better. But, it all boils down to example – when your kids see how much you’re committed to drinking enough water every day, they’ll soon catch up.
Make small, healthy changes
Making an abrupt change in your daily meals can surely make kids complain. You can’t blame them – big diet changes can get pretty overwhelming. To have an easy transition to healthy eating, start with small changes. Instead of getting fried chips, make baked snacks. Instead of ice cream, prepare delicious food smoothies. This will teach kids that healthy doesn’t always mean bland and boring.
Don’t make food a reward or punishment
The old and familiar phrase “I won’t give you this if you don’t eat this” could actually be doing more harm than good. If children see food as punishment, there’s a possibility that they could load up because they’ll never know when the next punishment is coming. When we give food as rewards, children may learn to cope with their emotions through eating than by talking it out. Make sure that only positive feelings are connected with food.
Helping kids make the big shift to healthy eating is not an easy task – tantrums, tears, and endless teaching moments will be very present during the process. But the right time to help kids eat healthily and have healthy eating habits is now. And guaranteed, it’ll be worth it – every effort, every frustration, every meal time success is worth it.
Giulz Garcia is a mother to a 14-month old cookie monster. She loves to sing, write, and give kisses to boo-boos. She considers motherhood her favorite roller coaster ride.