It can be difficult to convince children to eat healthy. Most parents experience the tantrums that come with trying to get a few bites of broccoli in at dinner time. But we also know how important it is to start children off early with healthy eating habits, which can lead to a healthy and active lifestyle. Have you been wondering how you can begin developing healthy eating habits for your children? Read on for some tips to get your child excited about eating healthy.
- Prioritize meal times. Children are always active, and therefore need a lot of nutrients to satisfy their energy. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should eat 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day. Be sure your children are starting their day off right with a balanced breakfast, and continuing the day with healthy snacks and meals that hit as many of the major food groups as possible.
- Don’t serve two different meals. Most families tend to go the easy route at meal time, and cook separate meals for the kids based on their likes and dislikes. Start cooking one, healthy meal for the whole family and encourage your kids to eat. They will begin to feel a connection with you because you are all sharing the same meal. This will encourage them to eat, or try, all the things you eat.
- Substitute in healthy snacks. Snack time is another time we tend to treat our kids to lots of yummy, but not necessarily healthy treats. Try stocking the fridge and pantry with easily-accessible healthy alternatives, like various veggies and dips, fruits, yogurt, protein bars, etc.
- Shop together. Take your little one(s) to the grocery store, farmer’s market, or wherever you shop. Involving them in the process of picking out foods, like fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. teaches children how to make healthy, balanced decisions and creates excitement in choosing foods they will be eating at meal time.
- Cook together. Of course, based on your child’s age, there are limited amounts of things they can do in the kitchen. Keeping age and safety in mind, encourage your kids to watch you cook, or even lend little helping hands. Some easy things children can start doing are mixing ingredients, measuring out ingredients, and setting out utensils. As they get older, they can learn even more skills and continue their culinary education.
- Give them treats. It’s totally fine and can actually help motivate kids, when we give them treats from time to time. If they’ve eaten everything on their plate for five days, or tried a new food, offer a yummy treat you know they’ll enjoy.
- Explain the benefits. Children are naturally curious and quick learners. When serving food that is new to them, explain the benefits of that food. You can tailor its description to things they are familiar with or even an activity they enjoy. For example, if your child really loves an endurance sport like ballet or football, say “Eating a banana makes your muscles stronger.” This will help make a connection for your child that different foods help our bodies in different ways.
- Make it fun. Get crafty with your food. Creating fun shapes or characters with veggies or making smiley faced sandwiches does wonders to build excitement about meal time. Make up silly names for the foods on your plate or even play a color by color matching game with different foods in your refrigerator or pantry. Anything that triggers a child’s imagination will cause them to be actively involved with the foods they eat and enjoy it so much more.