In a culture dominated by fast food and a growing obesity epidemic, it is more important than ever to teach our children healthy eating habits early on — and reinforce them as they grow.
The following is a list of tips to help involve and encourage children when it comes to food…
Teach them to cook:
This is one of the greatest ways to get children interested in food. Instead of shooing them out of the kitchen while you are making dinner, give them an age appropriate task. They can enjoy the pride of helping to create a meal, and learn tools that they will carry into the future.
Be a role model:
Kids learn by observation, and you can’t expect them to have a healthy relationship with food unless you do. Make sure that you take the time to eat well, make healthy choices, and be willing to try new things. Your children will be more likely to do the same.
Don’t make assumptions:
We often hear parents exclaiming that their children don’t like certain foods. Or we may discourage our children from trying an adult food because we think that they won’t enjoy it. Don’t. Try not to label them as picky or difficult eaters. Instead encourage them to try things that interest them and don’t always feel like you can only make “kid friendly” meals. They just may surprise you.
Plant a garden:
If you have the space for it, creating a garden together with your children is a hands-on way to show them where food comes from and how it grows. Even if you don’t have a big yard, you can fill pots with dirt and give them the task taking care of whatever you choose to plant. The excitement of picking their own harvest is unlike anything else, and they can learn how delicious fresh produce can be.
Stock up the good stuff:
Kids love snacking so be sure to introduce them to healthy snacks. For your sake and for theirs, keep your kitchen stocked with healthy and delicious snack options, rather than chips or cookies. Have whole grain crackers and cheese, yogurt, carrot sticks, celery and peanut butter, or other good-for-you treats. Also, keep a bowl of fresh fruit available that they can grab from whenever they want.
Don’t use food as a punishment or reward:
It can be easy to withhold food when your kids are misbehaving or being difficult. It is also easy to try and soothe or reward a fussy child with a sweet treat. Both of these habits can ultimately confuse how they feel about food. Keep food and mealtimes consistent, and find other ways to punish or to treat your children.