You’re always careful when it comes to eating and exercising, and take the proper steps to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Now it’s time to take these good habits and apply them to your children. Even if you’re packing their lunches and avoiding fast-food drive-throughs, your children might not be eating well.
Here’s how you can promote healthy eating habits:
Watch what’s in your pantry. Parents are normally the ones who do the grocery shopping; make a more conscious effort to buy healthy foods and drinks. If there are always candy and sugary drinks available, your children are more likely to pick these over nutritious snacks. It’s okay to have some less-nutritious foods as part of children’s meals or snacks, but keep those in moderation. You can even bring your children along to the grocery store and allow them to make choices, from the healthy selections you present, that they can take home and try.
Offer kid-friendly menus. Children can be picky eaters, and introducing new and different foods can be difficult. Offer a variety of foods, so your children get the right mix of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals that is needed for normal growth. Some excellent examples of healthy and kid-friendly foods include string cheese, fruit (both fresh and dried), air-popped or low-fat microwave popcorn, whole-grain crackers and breads, peanut butter, low-fat yogurt, raw veggies with hummus or bean dip and 100 percent fruit juice.
Eat together as a family as often as you can. With today’s busy schedules, sitting down for an actual family dinner can be difficult to organize. Try scheduling one or two dinners per week (or more). Help your children schedule their after-school activities so as not to conflict with the family’s dinnertime.
Make healthy dinner choices. Okay, now you have a family dinner schedule. The next step is selecting a menu that’s both appealing and healthy. Children see the choices you make – including what you put on your plate – and follow your example. If they see you enjoying fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, they are more likely to try these foods themselves.
Let them pick the food. This goes along with keeping healthy and nutritious foods in the house; offer a good variety of nutritious choices, then allow your kids some personal choice in what they eat. Try to resist commenting on their choices, except to praise them when they make healthy selections. If children are pressured to eat things they don’t want, they’re more likely to refuse to try new foods.
Don’t offer food for comfort. There are many factors in life that can cause stress – a family crisis, anxiety or sadness. Watch your kids to see if their emotions affect their eating habits. If you feel your child’s emotions are affecting his or her eating habits, focus on identifying and resolving the problem that’s causing the emotions, and not the eating behavior. Help your kids develop problem-solving skills that do not involve food. Use food as a reward very sparingly.
Monitor portion sizes. Make sure you are serving your children correct portion sizes – giving them too much can lead to overeating. Also, avoid saying, “Clean your plate,” or “Finish it all up.” Serve smaller portions – if they want seconds, they can have them (in moderation, of course).
Good eating habits make healthy children and happy parents!