We live in the age of technology, which means we’re constantly flooded with new information about what is considered “healthy” and what it is not. When that information is always evolving, how can you know the best way to teach your children how to make nutritious food and drink choices? Well, we have 10 tips to help your family foster a healthy relationship with food.
Make sure you understand what it means to make nutritious choices. The first step to getting your child to choose more nutritious options is to understand what a healthy relationship with food looks like. You can find out what’s in your foods by looking at the ingredient list. Click here to learn more about understanding your food’s nutrition labels. Be sure to have a balance of complex carbohydrates, fats, and protein in your diet. Don’t forget that drinks often provide added sugars and empty calories, so do your best to choose water or low-fat milk as fuel for your child’s body and brain. Remember, you can always add fresh fruit if water gets boring.
Kids are sponges. Monkey see, monkey do! Children mimic the behavior they see. If you always talk about being on a diet or cutting out certain foods, your kids will adopt that as their norm, too. To foster your child’s healthy relationship with food, be sure you are providing a good example for them to follow. Let them see that you eat breakfast every morning, you aren’t afraid of fresh fruits and vegetables, and that you indulge in dessert every once in a while.
Do your best to keep healthy foods available. Our schedules keep us busy enough without having to worry about food, but not having nutritious options available makes it easy to slip into less nutritious food habits. When in a crunch for time, stopping for fast-food seems like the most convenient option. Having fresh fruits and veggies on hand, or meals prepped to grab and go, makes it simple to keep up healthy eating behaviors. Set aside time in the week to prep meals and snacks for when you are on the go!
Boost your kids’ attitude by staying neutral. This doesn't mean that you let your kid eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Be sure to provide many healthy options for your kids and teach them to make good choices. Staying neutral means trying not to comment on how much or what they are eating. By staying neutral and not rewarding or scolding kids for their food decisions, your children are more likely to develop and maintain a positive attitude towards food.
Keep your kids involved and engaged. Let your child help make family food choices. Whether it’s bringing them to the grocery store to pick out a new fruit or veggie, or letting them help you make dinner, keep them exposed to options. Make trips to the local farmer's market as a family outing. Show them that choosing the option with the best nutrition, at any given moment, is always the best choice for a fit body and brain.
Take the time to make it fun! Find different ways to keep food choices fun! Host themed dinner nights (you could even incorporate silly outfits!). If your family loves pizza and movie nights, try to make a homemade pizza instead of ordering one. There are a lot of different ways to make healthy food fun to eat!
Provide your kids with options. Give your children a choice! By providing a variety of healthy and nutritious options, children are more likely to enjoy what they decide to eat rather than a food that is forced upon them.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up. While your family may have their favorite go-to foods, it is always helpful to mix it up. Spend time together finding new recipes or looking for new foods to taste at the farmer's market or grocery store. By being adventurous and mixing up your normal routine, you may find a new family favorite!
Sit down and eat together. Make it a habit to sit down and eat as a family. While schedules may try to keep you from doing so, it is important to create an enjoyable experience around mealtimes. Create a positive environment as you build healthy eating habits. Make family-style dinners to encourage a variety of foods! Keep screens away from the dinner table and join in conversation. Checking in on social media and other distractions can encourage unhealthy habits. Take a look at this article for more information on family-style dining.
The hardest part: sticking to a plan. Having a plan allows for more follow-through when you set a goal. Try to meal prep on weekends, go grocery shopping with a list so you’re not enticed by less nutritious food choices, and cook together as a family. Routine is key to building a healthy relationship with food.
While you may not realize it, the habits that you instill in your children in their youth will continue into their adulthood. Do your best and help them create healthy relationships now. You’ll be glad you did.
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