Who’s the superhero your kids look up to every day? You! An important part of parenting is setting positive examples for your kids to follow. When it comes to eating, the foods and routines you expose them to will lead to long lasting habits.
A healthy diet improves concentration, alertness and physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, according to researchers at Kansas State University. However, “even the best intentioned parents can expect food fights with their children,” said Tanda Kidd, associate professor of human nutrition and extension specialist at KSU. It takes effort, but helping your kids form good eating habits at a young age proves highly beneficial for their growth and development.
These easy tactics will get the kids used to, and even excited about, healthy eating.
Serve the kids healthy snacks to encourage good eating habits.
- Follow a healthy routine
When you’re mindful of proper eating and snacking times, you can develop good habits as a family. Schedule snack times to avoid overeating throughout the day. Plan to have dinner as a family. When everyone eats together, kids are less likely to consume the wrong foods or snack too much beforehand. Unless food allergies or health reasons make it impossible, try to serve everyone in the family the same meal. Catering to different desires can condone picky eating and discourage kids from trying new foods. To avoid complaints, get the kids involved in cooking and planning meals so they feel part of the whole process.
- Don’t reward with food
Try to avoid using food to celebrate or punish kids’ behavior. It sends the wrong message, and can lead them to develop negative connotations about certain foods. For instance, if a kid is rewarded for finishing green beans with a cookie, he or she begins to see vegetables as the gateway to cookies and other junk food. Aside from taste of course, this is often why kids “hate healthy food” and “love junk food.”
- Limit the screen time
The American Heart Association recommended limiting TV, iPad, iPod, computer and video game time to help children develop healthy habits. These sedentary activities often induce excessive snacking, which increases risks for obesity and cardiovascular issues. Try to keep the screen time to 2 hours or less a day. When they’re behind a screen, kids are less likely to engage in other physical and social activities.
- Take them grocery shopping
The grocery store is a gold mine for teaching kids about nutrition, reading labels and comparing food items. Don’t be afraid to let them make decisions. With your guidance, they can choose which fruits, vegetables, granola bars or other snacks they want to eat. You’ll get a better handle on their preferences, and they’ll feel a sense of ownership in their food choices. After a few trips, feel free to divvy up the shopping list. They’ll feel accomplished when they locate their designated items, and may even be more excited to eat them later.
- When in doubt, don’t buy it!
If you’re cognizant of a healthy diet, you know to avoid buying foods with high sugar and fat content. You won’t be tempted to eat unhealthy foods if they’re not in your house. The same goes for the kids. Trade out the cookie jar for a bowl of grapes or apples, and they’ll begin to associate fruit as a snack choice at home. Try to avoid buying sweetened drinks for the kids. Instead, serve them water with most meals, and they’ll get in the habit of it being their go-to drink.
Stay mindful of implementing these healthy eating habits and it will become natural for the whole family. The kids may even start to love healthy foods. Maybe not more than chips and cookies, but it’s a start. Here’s to food fights about which delicious and nutritious vegetable to serve with dinner!