Teaching kids how to stay healthy can be frustrating and even hopeless at times. With so much time put in to making sure they are healthy, how do we make sure they have the habits when they go off on their own? Here are some ways you can get your child started on the right foot and instill healthy habits that they will carry with them into adulthood.
1) Teach Healthy Habits from the Beginning
It’s much harder to instill a habit after a child is used to something else. Rather than making the quick turn to healthy when they are 2, start when they are young practicing healthy eating so that the transition to healthy solid food is natural.
2) Get Them Involved
Don’t exclude your kids from the food process. Have your child help you plan your meals and snacks for the week. Take them grocery shopping with you so they can see their plans happening. And have them help in the kitchen if they can. They will get the satisfaction from planning and making their own food, encouraging them to eat it more easily. It will also help prepare them for when they are more independent with their food choices.
3) Fill Your Kitchen with Healthy Snacks
If your child is struggling to eat healthy, that might be because their food options are limited. Try to have healthy snacks on hand all the time! When healthy snacks are around, your child will get used to reaching for those when they are hungry rather than processed foods. Whether it’s baby carrots, celery with peanut butter, or anything else that can satisfy the munchies, it helps to keep your child away from the potato chips and candy.
4) Don’t Ban Junk Food
Although you should fill your pantry and fridge with healthy food, don’t get rid of junk food altogether. A complete lack of sugar and fats will only lead to overeating and even a lack of self control when children are around those kinds of food. Instead of banning, show them the balance between healthy and the occasional treat.
5) Don’t Use Food as Punishment
Telling your children that they can’t have dessert if they don’t eat all of their dinner creates a negative relationship between them and healthy foods. The same goes for using media, play time, or sweets as a reward for eating their food. Instead, offer different options, like a smaller portion of their meal, or a fruit smoothie. It can be tempting to create bribes or punishments when you are teaching your child healthy eating. And it might work in the moment. But in the long run, your child may have unhealthy perceptions and relationships with food.
6) Give Them a Choice
Give children some of the control on their eating habits by giving them the power to choose! Such choices could include a taco or pasta bar, where lots of healthy toppings are presented, and they can choose which ones to put on their plate. This prevents the feeling of an overbearing parent and allows children start practicing their own healthy choices.
7) Encourage Mindful Eating
Mindful eating can help your child avoid overeating or eating the wrong things. Encourage them to only eat in certain places, like the kitchen or the dining room to avoid mindless eating. Try to make it so they aren’t eating while they watch TV or look at screens. When they are eating, try to have them wait about 15 minutes before their second helping to see if they end up feeling full or not. And when they do have extra helpings, make sure they are smaller than the previous.
8) Have Regular Family Dinner
Many studies have shown that having a consistent family dinner helps a child immensely, and not just in their eating habits. To make dinner a happy and bonding time, make sure that you are sitting down daily with your child for a meal.
9) Be an Example
Telling your child they can’t have sweets and then drinking soda every day sends mixed messages and can cause confusion and resentment in older children. If you want your child to eat healthy, you need to eat healthy as well!
10) Don’t Give Up
Remember that your child is learning just as much as you are. Don’t give up if they refuse some new lifestyle changes. Children are always changing, and it’s important to remember how they are feeling.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.