All kinds of new information is thrown at us regarding what healthy is and what it is not. So what exactly is the best way to teach our children how to eat healthy, and what can we do to help?Here are 10 tips to help your family foster a healthy relationship with food.
1. Understand a healthy diet. The first step to getting your child to eat healthy is to understand what a healthy relationship with food looks like. Know what is in the foods you and your family are eating by looking at the ingredient list. Be sure to have a balance of healthy carbohydrates that are high in fiber, fats, and protein in your diet. Don’t forget that drinks often provide added sugars and empty calories. Always choose water or low-fat milk to fuel your body and brain. Remember you can always add fresh fruit to mix up your water.
2. Monkey see, monkey do! Children mimic the behavior they see. If you are always talking about being on a diet or cutting out certain foods they 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.
3. Keep healthy foods available. Our schedules keep us busy enough without having to worry about food, but not having healthy snacks or meals 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!
4. Stay 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. Try not to reprimand them for how much or what they are eating. By staying neutral, not rewarding or scolding kids with food, your children are more likely to develop a positive attitude towards food.
5. Keep kids involved. 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 a family outing. Show them that choosing the healthiest option at any given moment is always the best choice for a fit body and brain.
6. 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 pizza instead of ordering one. There are a lot of different ways to make healthy food fun to eat!
7. Provide choices. Give children a choice! By providing healthy and nutritious choices, children are more likely to enjoy what they decide to eat rather than a food that is forced upon them.
8. 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!
9. 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 meal times. Create a positive environment as you build healthy eating habits. Make dinners family style 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.
10. Stick 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.
It is important to understand that the habits you instill in your children at a young age will continue into adulthood. Be sure to help create a healthy, positive relationship in order to set your family up for success.