10 tips to encourage healthy eating habits for your kids
Encouraging healthy eating habits is the best gift you can give your child
We all set out to ensure that our child loves their veggies, eats everything on their plate and has the desire to try new foods when presented. Unfortunately, our kids sometimes don't want to play along with our plan and we have come up with new ideas to keep them on track.
Here are 10 tips to encourage healthy eating habits for your kids. Remember you may need to be patient and persistent. Try implementing one or two habits at a time for long term success.
1. Be the ultimate role model
Kids are not going to ask for a green veggie juice if they see you enjoying a big glass of coke. Sure, you don’t have to be perfect every time, but generally, kids develop their eating habits from their parents. So if you are enjoying a wide range of healthy foods, they will understand that is the norm. Remember, you are your child's main role model, so be a great one!
2. Encourage their taste buds to develop early
Introduce a wide range of foods to your child from a young age. Start getting them to eat the meals you and rest of the family are enjoying when they move onto solids. Expose them to a range of flavours, spices and ingredients, but don’t be discouraged if they reject it the first time! Try again a week or so later, or experiment with different ways you can present the foods.
3. Get your children in the kitchen
It is important your child understands where food comes from and the act of preparing healthy food from scratch. Get your children in the kitchen from a young age and ask them to help out preparing the meals. Even having a baby in the highchair next to you tasting or more like playing with the food or utensils is a great start.
4. Don’t bribe or withhold food as a punishment
Bribing your children for good behaviour or to get them to do what you asked with food, particularly sweets and fatty foods, is such a bad idea! Soon your children will expect to receive something every time they are good or assume these foods are better or more valuable than others when you offer them as a reward.
Withholding food to punish is also sending the wrong message. If you send your child to bed without any dinner because they were misbehaving, your child will worry that they won’t get enough food. This leads to children overeating at any chance in the event they will go hungry.
5. Enjoy a meal together
It’s an oldie, but getting into the habit of sitting down together as a family to talk about the day and to enjoy the food you have prepared is something everyone should do. This is often hard with young children especially during the week, so if family dinners on weeknights is hard to achieve ensure you give it a go on the weekend.
6. Hold the salt
Try not to accustom your children to eating extra salt by adding it to their food which many of us do prior to even tasting the meal. It’s more out of habit than anything else. Remove the shaker from the table to keep it from tempting you!
7. Be aware of your child’s natural appetite
You will notice as your children grow their appetites change. Sometimes it seems they are eating all the time and others they don’t want anything at all. Don’t force your child to eat if they say they are full or don’t want anything. Instead, allow your child to follow their natural appetite.
8. Don’t make children feel guilty about food
You may feel guilty about gobbling down that brownie, but don’t make your children feel bad if they ate a certain food or a large portion. Educate your children that having a ‘sometimes food’ every now and then isn’t a disaster that they should feel bad about. They should just know it’s not food to be consumed on a daily basis.
9. Encourage mindfulness when eating
Get your child in the habit of sitting down eating slowly and mindfully by concentrating on the food, its textures and flavours. This will allow them to appreciate what they are eating. They’ll also take the time to eat it rather than finishing within minutes to head back outside to play. Eating mindfully gives your child’s brain time to register when it is full, so before they ask for a second helping ask them to wait 10-15 minutes to see if they are truly still hungry.
10. Water, water, water
Encourage your children to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Don’t have fizzy drinks, cordials or juices in the house to tempt them with. Water should be your child’s favourite drink. It's important you get them used to drinking it regularly at a young age. For young ones, you may need to buy them a special ‘water only’ bottle to encourage this. And for older ones who have a sweet tooth, try flavouring the water with fresh fruit like berries or orange slices.