Teaching your child healthy eating habits is as important as anything else you'll teach him or her during childhood. Here are some tips for getting your child interested in and into the routine of eating healthy foods.
Encourage Water Drinking
Many kids drink an incredible amount of sugar and calories every day. Juice, soft drinks, and chocolate milk all introduce sugar and calories into your child's day and leave less room for nutritious calories. Encourage water drinking over these other drinks.
You can help your child drink more water by getting him or her a special, small cup or water bottle. Show the child how to fill the container from the sink or a dispenser in the refrigerator.
Start the day by giving your child a cup of water with breakfast and refill it for each snack and meal time. Drink water yourself. Your child will want to follow your lead.
Stock Healthy Foods in the Home at All Times
You are in charge of what foods come into your home. Stock only healthy foods. If your child doesn't have unhealthy food available, he or she will eat healthy items.
As much as possible, get rid of packaged foods and keep fruits, vegetables, cheese, and whole grains for snacks.
Stick to a Schedule
Create a meal and snack schedule in your home and stick to it. Otherwise, kids might "graze" throughout the day and not be hungry at mealtimes.
When you have a regular meal and snack schedule, you can be sure to pack all the nutrients your child needs into each day without losing some to empty calories or sugar. It also helps provide a steady energy stream rather than ups and downs, and that can go a long way toward keeping your child emotionally stable and ready to learn and grow.
Don't Make a Big Deal About Eating
Your job is to provide nutritious, healthy food options. Put a small portion of everything on your child's plate and allow him or her to choose what to eat. Don't argue about food, and don't insist that your child has a clean plate at the end of the meal. That can create power struggles and a poor relationship with food.
Introduce New Foods and Keep Offering Disliked Foods
Regularly introduce new foods or new ways of cooking foods. If your child doesn't like something, accept that verdict and don't make a fuss. However, offer the food again in a couple of weeks and continue to do so. Often, it takes a few exposures of a new food for a child to like it. A person's tastes can also change as they get older, and they might like something suddenly that they never liked before.
Don't Use Sweets as Rewards
Don't use "junk" food as a reward for accomplishments or good behavior. Likewise, don't offer those types of foods if your child has had a rough day. That can trigger a lifelong struggle for a person to disconnect from the idea of eating foods for comfort or celebration, which can contribute to weight and health struggles.
Prepare Food Together
Kids are more likely to eat a meal if they have had a hand in preparing it. Let your child choose what to make for dinner sometimes and teach him or her to help you make it. Allow experimentation in the kitchen.
Teaching your child to cook gives them a crucial life skill that will help him or her eat healthy food throughout life. People who cook and eat at home tend to eat healthier food than those who mainly eat out.
You can learn more about this here: "Ideas for Getting Your Kids in the Kitchen."
Make a habit of eating as many meals together as a family as possible. Have fun together. Talk to your child while you eat and create positive associations with healthy food in his or her mind.
Don't Allow Eating in Front of Screens
Introduce your child to mindful eating from a young age. As much as possible, leave plenty of time for eating and don't eat while watching TV or playing video games, which encourages mindless eating of empty calories or too many calories.
Instead, teach your child to listen to his or her body while eating, to eat slowly, and to stop when full. Talk about the different foods you're eating, where they come from, which nutrients they're high in, and how they benefit the body.
Make It Fun
Kids love fun, and they adore having fun with their family. Make healthy eating fun for your child and yourself by cutting shapes into healthy foods, presenting them in cute patterns, putting them in interesting containers, and being silly with your child during food prep time.
Keep meal and snack times light and fun, and use that time to connect with and nurture your child, both physically and emotionally.