If you’re a parent, you know how hard it is to get your children to eat healthy and steer them away from the sweet, fatty, and salty snacks. It should not be hard to teach your kids how to eat healthy. Healthy foods are important though, as it’s what keeps you going through the day. As Hippocrates said, “The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.” Follow these ten simple rules to make teaching healthy eating habits seem like less of a chore.
- Don’t Stress About It
Think about all those movies with the family sitting around the dinner table, tense and quiet as the parents are obviously filled with anxiety. Do you see the kids eating at the table? No. If you are feeling anxious about something at the breakfast/lunch/dinner table, your kids will immediately pick up on it. Eating should be something enjoyed by the family. If a child feels anxious, they are less likely to eat. So take a moment to breathe and come to the table with a refreshed attitude as much as possible.
- Start Teaching Healthy Eating Habits Early On
I remember my doctor telling me when I was pregnant that eating healthy starts in the womb. This affects the health of the baby, and the same can be said after they’re born. When your children see you eating healthy, wholesome foods, they will be much more inclined to eat healthy as well.
- Trust Your Children
Your children will know best when they’re hungry and how much they should eat. This may take a bit of learning for both children and parents, but eventually children will get used to three square meals a day.
- Have Healthy Snacks Around the House
Snacking is not necessarily a bad thing that should be avoided. As long as children don’t overeat at meal times, providing healthy snacks is okay. Have sugar-free juice around the house, fruits and vegetables, or even some lightly salted popcorn. Just keep your children away from the Oreo cookies and ice cream. (Those are ‘after children go to sleep’ snacks in my home!)
- You CAN Eat Out
One of the biggest things I hear around the playground is that parents avoid eating out with their kids to ensure their kids always stay healthy. Parents buy tons of gadgets and gizmos, like home meat slicers to make restaurant-style meals at home. And while I do applaud their idea, eating out is actually alright. Of course, I am not advocating going to fast food restaurants once a week, but it is important to show kids that they can go out to a restaurant and still eat a healthy meal. Besides, as parents, we can’t cook every night!
- Sometimes you Have to Throw 3 Meals a Day Out the Window
We all were taught that you need to eat three healthy meals a day. However, this is not always the case. Children should eat when they are hungry as they will enjoy what they are eating and not see having a meal as a chore. If children are forced to eat when they don’t want to, they will place negative thoughts on meal time and potentially eating as a whole.
- Do Not Force Your Child to Eat
This goes with the previous point – if your child is not hungry, do not make them sit there until they eat everything. As long as your child eats a little something on their plate, finishing their plate should not be obligated. As parents, we always want to ensure our children are getting enough to eat, which creates the whole “you cannot leave the table until you finish your food” fiasco. However, kids are the judges of their body, not you. If they think they are full, they most likely are. And if they are happy and healthy, it is okay that a few broccoli stems are still on their plate.
- Variety is the Spice of Life
If you plan the same meals week in and week out, chances are your kids will get bored of it quickly and look for other, non-healthy alternatives. Spice things up a bit by introducing new side dishes. Whenever I can only think of the basic meals, I search for new recipes online to try out.
- You Decide What is on the Table, in Your Fridge, and in the Pantry
While sometimes it is nice to bring your kids food shopping with you to teach them all about healthy foods to buy, you are in charge of what goes in the shopping cart, not them. A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of the candy aisles entirely.
- Monkey see, Monkey do
Children learn from their parents. If they see you eating unhealthy foods, they are going to want to eat them as well. Sometimes parents need to change their eating behavior if they want to get their kids to eat healthy. Remember, all change starts with you!