3 easy ways to help your children develop healthy eating habits
Once formed, habits can be tricky to break.
But knowing what we know today about the enormously important effect food and nutrition have on our long-term health and weight, I'm pretty sure all parents want to make sure their children develop eating habits that will keep them healthy and happy – for life.
The thing is, when it comes to children and food; it quite often is not as easy as it seems to make them eat food we know is good for them. The reality is that many young children are notoriously picky eaters, and often less than happy to try new things. Despite your best efforts, begging and bribery.
Before you toss in the towel, though, mamas, remember that instilling good habits when it comes to food is a work-in-process. It won't happen overnight – but then again, so few important things do. But we all have to start somewhere, and here are three easy tips that will – if not make them love broccoli and kale overnight – then at least get you off to a good and healthy start:
Sit down for family dinners
It can be hard to manage this in our increasingly busy lives, but trying to carve out time to sit down and have a family dinner is important for so many reasons. Not only is this a great opportunity to relax and have a conversation with your children about their day, but it is also an important way of showing your children you eating and enjoying healthy food.
Children learn first and foremost from mimicking their parents, and so letting them see you making healthy food choices is an important step towards them making these choices for themselves. Eating together as a family also makes it easier to discuss taste and texture of food.
Try to keep mealtime conversations pleasant and free from stress and force – even if your child is reluctant to try something new. Remember that children sometimes need to taste something several times before deciding that they like it, and that it is better just to keep presenting it instead of making a drama if the refuse it the first few times around.
It is also smart to give choices rather than dictate – just make sure the choices you are giving them are all healthy ones. That way, if your child really doesn't want to eat cauliflower, they can opt for broccoli instead.
Serve up age-appropriate portions
It can be an easy trap to fall into, serving up portions to your children that are the same size as the ones you are putting on a plate for the adults of the house. But keep in mind that children are smaller in size, and so, therefore – naturally – require less food per meal than an adult does.
In fact, a five-year-old only needs about half the amount an adult does.
One idea might be to serve children their meal on a smaller plate than the ones you use for adults. That way, the plate still looks full, and yet they are eating portions that are appropriate for their size and age.
Let kids help out
Learning to care about the food they eat and be excited about mealtimes are important steps towards encouraging children to make healthy choices when it comes to eating.
One way of getting them involved is to let them help out with both the shopping for – and the preparation of – food for mealtimes. Let them help pick the different ingredients for dinner in the supermarket, give them tasks to do when cooking the meal (peel, chop, stir) and get them involved in activities like setting the table and help serve themselves and even younger siblings.
Remember, it is also good for children's sense of being able to master things that they are allowed to have a go at cutting and spreading and spooning things out themselves before we offer to help them out.