Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthier
As parents, it’s important for our children to make the smartest decisions when it comes to their health – especially the foods that they eat. Science has proven that children will often mimic what their parents do, which is why it’s so critical for them to see their loved ones doing everything in their power to implement and promote positive health habits.
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes made is having separate meals for the grown-ups of the family, and other meals for children. While you might do this in effort to limit the temptations of things like junk food, it’s still important to allow your child to dictate the foods that they eat as long as the choices they’re making are healthy. This further allows them to be more adventurous with their palates and try new foods moving forward rather than sticking to the same particular items. At the same time, while it’s important that you encourage your child to eat their fruits and vegetables and finish what’s on their plate, if it something they don’t want to eat then try not to push it on them. The fact that a child may not want to eat a particular food item doesn’t necessarily mean that they are turned off from it; instead, it could be due to the fact that they simply aren’t hungry, and that’s ok too as long as they haven’t avoided their dinner plate completely. By forcing food upon them, this sends the message that they should eat past the point of being full – and, just like adults, eating too much of something can ultimately lead to weight gain in children, too. Similarly, you also shouldn’t restrict a child from eating certain foods, as this could lead to the development of eating disorders (such as bulimia or anorexia) later in life.
On the other hand, it’s also entirely possible for children to be extra picky eaters, but this is something you can try to prevent by incorporating foods with different colours, textures and flavours into their meals. Things like herbs and spices, sauces, and even a dash of margarine or butter (as long as the food isn’t drenched in it) may actually entice a child to want to try new things. You can also get really creative with your kids meals by sneaking things like vegetables into casseroles and other favourite dishes. It’s also important to speak their language. For example, a 5-year-old might not recognize terms like “essential vitamins and minerals” when discussing why fruits and vegetables are such a crucial part of a healthy diet, while someone in their teens would.
Tip: If your child tends to gravitate towards foods that are fried, fatty, sweet, and overall unhealthy, try suggesting healthier options. For example, offer them baked tortilla chips and salsa rather than regular potato chips and chip. Speaking of potatoes, you can also make your own French fries at home in the oven rather than going to a fast food restaurant; and, instead of chocolate or other types of candy, try dipping their favourite fresh fruit (strawberries or bananas) into a small amount of chocolate sauce.
Lastly, be patient. Parenting is tough as it is, and it can certainly be frustrating when kids aren’t making the right decisions as far as healthy eating goes, but it’s also important to understand that it may take a child several times of trying a certain food before they decide they like it. However, when they do make those healthy choices, make sure you praise them and also encourage them to tell you what it is they enjoyed about a particular food. It can also be a fun idea to make one or all of the meals a family event. If a child is old enough, allow them to help you with the cooking process, whether it’s choosing what a particular meal is going to be on any given day, mixing up ingredients, or even setting the dinner table.