Sometimes kids, and even adults, hear the words healthy eating and immediately think of something with no flavor or something a rabbit would eat. In reality, this is usually far from the truth. This is just a stigma that is usually associated with healthier food.
The best way to get your family beyond this stigma is to educate them without them even knowing that is what you are doing. Use these tips to encourage your kids without them even realizing it!
1 – Be a Good Example
Kids watch everything you do and will copy what you do, whether you want them to or not. If they see you eating healthy and willingly trying new foods, they will more than likely do the same.
2 – Involve Them in Choosing the Food
Take the kids along to the grocery store and let them help pick out fresh fruits and vegetables. Explain to them how reading labels can help you pick out the foods – including treats – that are the best for you. Have them compare different products. Let them choose new foods to try.
3 – Let them Help you Prepare the Food
Kids of all ages usually love to be in the kitchen helping out, and learning how to prepare and cook different food is a great life skill they will appreciate down the road. Not only will helping prepare food teach them more about the food they are eating, they are more likely to eat (or at least try) food that they help to make.
4 – Eat Meals Together as a Family
Having a dinner time routine as a family is not only a great excuse for some quality together time, it is a great way to reinforce healthy eating habits. By having family meals, you are more likely to serve healthier food rather than quickly grabbing something and sitting in front of a TV or eating on the run. If you keep mealtimes positive and pleasant (no arguing or scolding allowed), everyone is more likely to take their time eating which will help them not overeat.
5 – Stock Up on Healthy Snacks
It is important to have healthy options in your kitchen for snack times or even those times where sitting down to a formal meal isn’t possible. While you might think chips and cookies are good options, try some apple chips or granola bars instead. Keep string cheese and yogurt in the refrigerator. Cut up bananas and keep them in the freezer or store your grapes in the freezer. These are all great alternatives and I am sure you can think of many more.
6 – Size Matters… Sometimes
While you want your kids to learn how much they should or shouldn’t eat at a meal, don’t worry about it too much. It is perfectly normal for the amount of food a child eats at meals will vary from day to day. Most parents will worry more when they think their child doesn’t eat enough than when they eat too much, but it should be the other way around. The best way to help your kids avoid overeating is to have them east slower.
7 – Offer a Variety of Foods
Not only will kids learn to like a larger variety of foods if they are offered a larger variety, but also you can be assured of a balanced meal if they have several healthy foods to choose from. This can be as simply as offering 3 or 4 different toppings for a simple salad or a few different fruit and/or nut options that can be sprinkled on cold or hot cereal.
8 – Be Realistic
Let’s face it, in most households it is not possible to sit down to a more formal dinner every night of the week. That’s okay. Realize that you will not always have ideal circumstances or even food options when it comes to meals and snacks. It is okay to splurge every once in awhile!
9 – Don’t Use Food as a Bribe or a Reward
Kids should learn to associate food with nutrition, not with good or bad behavior.
10 – Make Food Fun
While we don’t usually want kids to play with their food, you can encourage them to get creative with it. This is sometimes the best way to get picky eaters to eat better! This can be as simple as cutting food into fun and easy shapes with cookie cutters or offering dips with fruits and veggies. You can also try some simple, yet creative, snack recipes.
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