You will struggle to find a parent who has not (at least occasionally) felt like a mealtime has turned into a negotiation or even a battlefield. We know what our children need, but this is often at odds with what they want. No one is a naturally healthy eater; our eating habits and patterns are learnedfrom a very early age and usually stick with us as adults. Children with poor diets are likely to grow into adults with poor diets, so the earlier you can give them a positive and balanced attitude towards food, the more likely it is they will accept the healthy foods you are trying too hard to get inside of them!
We all have busy lives and, yes, from time to time we will choose convenience, but we should be trying to tip the balance towards healthy foods as often as possible. Here are six ways to help your kids stay healthy:
(1) Lead By Example
If you show your children unhealthy habits and eat nothing but junk in front of them, it does not matter how much you tell them to eat healthily — they are not going to get it! We, as parents, need to make sure we are following our own advice when it comes to a healthy lifestyle and showing (not telling) our children how it is done. Of course, that is not to say you cannot enjoy treats as a family from time to time or enjoy the odd indulgence after bedtime!
(2) Make Sure They Eat Breakfast
It is almost a cliché now, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It sets us up for the day ahead with the energy we need to think and function, and it kickstarts our metabolism, so our body starts processing our energy as soon as possible. If we do not eat breakfast, our bodies can go into a starvation mode which can make it difficult to maintain a healthy body weight. Avoid sugary foods which give us a temporary surge of energy followed by a drop and opt for breakfast foods with protein, some healthy fats, carbohydrates (whole grains are best), and vitamins and minerals.
(3) Get The Kids Involved
One of the best ways to educate children about food is to take them with you when you shop. Processed foods on the shelves look very different from the colorful variety of raw ingredients and whole foods. You will find they have loads of questions about what is what, how it is made, and may even ask to try something new.
The activity does not need to stop when you get home; encourage your children to help in the kitchen by learning to peel potatoes or carrots. Giving kids easy cooking skills early on is both great for their self-esteem and helps appreciate the value of cooking from scratch. If you have ever made cookies with your kids, you will know that they love eating food they have created, but it does not have to be cookies every time.
(4) Be Creative
If your child insists that they simply do not like certain foods or will not even try them, it is time to get creative! Cook the same meal for everyone in the family and try putting something new on their plate to give them the opportunity to try it. You might need to do this several times before they finally give it a go but be patient and do not argue about their reluctance. Find new ways to prepare or present vegetables as part of the meal or include them in dishes in smaller pieces. Here is a great recipe for salmon cakes on the HelloFresh website which includes both vegetables and fish and takes just 30 minutes to prepare.
(5) Do Not Use Food As A Bribe, Punishment, Or Reward
Food should not be used as a bribe to incentivize good behavior or as a punishment as they may develop unhealthy psychological or emotional attachments to food. Rewards like stickers, an extra hour on their computer game, or one more bedtime story are just as successful.
(6) Remember, It Is Okay To Relax
Healthy foods should make up most of your child’s diet, but there is no harm in allowing treats in moderation. In fact, it is often a better tactic than denying your child everything they want as they will view the treats as rewards or something that needs to be hidden away.