Teaching your child healthy food habits early on can help set them up for a lifetime of health and wellness! When picky eaters and busy schedules combine, it can be all too easy to give in and let your kids eat fast food or allow them to skip the fresh veggies on their plate. However, it’s incredibly important to help direct your child to make healthy food choices now, so they continue to do so later.
A healthy, balanced diet can have incredible effects on your child’s development. Not only is it great for curbing childhood obesity, but it can also help prevent conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, diabetes, cancers, and eating disorders.
So, how do you help your child make healthy food choices while also balancing everything else in your life? Use these simple pieces of advice:
Healthy Eating Habits for Kids and Parents
These healthy eating habits for kits and parents will help the whole family make better food choices!
1. Schedule meals and snacks
Children should eat every 3-4 hours. They need at least three meals, two snacks in between meals, and plenty of healthy fluids. Planning your child’s meals, snacks, and drinks ahead of time will help you make sure their meal plan is balanced. Plus, having the meals and snacks ready to go will help save you from swinging by the fast-food restaurants on your way home
2. Plan dinner ahead of time
Planning your dinners ahead of time will take a lot of stress off your mind! Instead of scrambling around at the end of the day wondering, “What should I make my picky eater for dinner?” you can just consult your menu and get cooking. Dinners don’t have to be fancy or complex – they just should be healthy and balanced. Plan for a whole grain (rice or pasta) a fruit or vegetable (frozen is fine!) and a healthy protein source (lean meat, cheese, beans).
3. Make one dinner for the whole family
It’s not a good idea to make one dinner that you know the kids will like and another dinner for the adults. This can be the beginning of poor eating habits! Instead, consider making one meal and serving it family-style. This gives the kids the option to choose what they want and leave what they don’t. Either way, they’ll be eating the healthy foods that are available to them.
4. Don’t make comments about eating habits
It might be tempting to tell your child to “eat your vegetables!” but this often leads to children resisting out of spite. Instead, try to remain as neutral as you can. Your job is to prepare healthy meals and your kids’ job is to eat them!
5. Introduce new foods slowly
Many children are hesitant about trying new foods. Others will go all in! Either way, it’s important to slowly introduce new foods, so your child doesn’t panic and write that food off as no good. If your child doesn’t like a new food, perhaps tell them that their taste buds just need to get used to the new flavor and that soon it might be their new favorite!
6. Don’t skip breakfast
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day! Skipping breakfast might lead to not having enough fiber in your diet or going too long without eating. High-fiber cereals, breads, and muffins are a quick fix for the fiber issue! Plus, these foods tend to help your child feel full longer, so they’ll make it to snack time without getting cranky.
7. Make fruits and veggies extra sweet
There’s nothing wrong with adding a little bit of sugar to your fruits and veggies if it’s going to get your child to eat! Brown sugar on carrots does wonders. Granulated sugar on fresh fruit tastes like candy! Your child will likely outgrow their sweet tooth, but if a spoonful of sugar makes the fruits and vegetables go down… so be it!
8. Let your kids participate in cooking
When your child reaches the age when they can start helping in the kitchen, it might be a good idea to let the take the reins a little bit. Ask them what they’d like to see on the weekly dinner menu and allow them to help you prepare it. This can help your child develop a healthy connection to food – they may see it as a fun activity instead of a chore!
9. Don’t use junk food as a “reward”
Many think that junk food and treats should be used as a reward. “Finish your dinner, and you can have ice cream!” or “You did a good job in school. Let’s get Mcdonald’s later!” Although this way of thinking seems harmless, it can lead to unhealthy eating habits as your child gets older. Instead, guide your child to healthy eating habits and let them know the value of fresh foods, but remind them that food is not a reward nor a punishment.
10. Get creative with meals
In other words, make food fun! Pretend broccoli florets are baby trees and you are a family of dinosaurs. Use a fancy tool to cut vegetables into spirals. Take a cookie cutter to toast to turn it into fun shapes. There are tons of ways you can turn mealtime into playtime, so your kids are more interested in eating.
11. Be an example
Above all, lead by example. Kids learn the most from watching their parents (even when you think they aren’t paying attention). Be careful about how you talk about food, weight, and eating habits to yourself, your partner, and your friends. Consider what kind of messages you’re sending your children when you make meals, when your go shopping, and when you talk about food. You might find that this mindfulness helps YOU make better food choices, too!
Healthy Eating at Meaningful Beginnings
Here at Meaningful Beginnings, we understand how important healthy eating habits are. We take time to get to know your child and are extremely careful of any allergies or sensitivities! We are dedicated to serving healthy, balanced lunches and snacks, and will make sure your child drinks enough healthy fluids to stay hydrated – even while playing outside. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we encourage healthy eating habits at our daycare center.