Teaching kids healthy eating habits can be a challenge with all of the fast food appeal today’s times have on the young ones. Without being a health fanatic, you can still instill some basic good eating habits in small children. I am sometimes shocked at what is shown on reality television, such as Wife Swap in regards to how children eat. There was an overweight little boy who only ate chicken nuggets and French fries. Even for breakfast. That type of eating isn’t healthy and as parents we have to find a way to break that pattern. It may be difficult at first, but it can be done. These are some tips I have used in my own family with success.
First, it is a good idea to set a schedule. Have clear meal times. Have clear snack times. This way the child knows at eleven on a Friday night it is too late to ask for snacks. They also know when they get in from school is the perfect time to have a quick snack before they start in on chores or homework. Establishing a routine for eating is good for everyone.
Does your child have a sweet tooth that is constantly craving a dessert? Instill the rule that they must finish their plate before they can get dessert. If they are a really finicky eater, maybe you would be satisfied once in a while if they at least try the spinach. When they are asking for the sweets, remind them you expect them to eat three bites of vegetables. If they throw a fit or grouse, they can always put the plate in the sink and skip dessert. It is not cruel to withhold the cake or pie to make sure they eat a balanced meal first.
Encourage healthy snacking by starting them with healthy snacks when they are young. We had problems with our toddler not going to bed at night until we found yogurt. We started a routine that he could have a small bowl of yogurt before bed and he fell to asleep with a lot less hassle. This was also a healthy snack food that he has grown to love throughout childhood. Why the yogurt before bed? Because it helps absorb and digest any sugar running rampant in their bodies and helps an energetic young one rest easier. It doesn’t have to be yogurt, encourage your little one to eat some carrots and celery. Or even popcorn instead of the potato chips. It is amazing how many healthy snacks kids really do love when they are presented with those rather than Little Debbie snack cakes and chips. This is all about your own shopping habits and what you have in your pantry. Make sure you include healthier snack foods than junk foods. Junk foods are fine for occasional snacking or as a treat, but replace it with something healthier once in a while as well.
Are you married to someone that hates healthy food? Talk to them in private and encourage them to not show their distaste for green beans in front of the kids. If possible get your partner to help you in your encouragement with the kids by eating at least a bite or two of those hated foods. Remind them it is good for them as well and you want them to be by your side and healthy for years to come. Sometimes seeing both parents put the offending vegetable in their mouths makes it more appealing for the children to try the food themselves.
The last tip we have had success with is do not provide junk for children to drink. I happen to have a bad soda addiction, but I do not buy soda for my child very often. He is limited to one a week. There is always juice in the pantry or refrigerator as well as milk. We encourage him to drink that or water with his dinner. We don’t make a lot of Kool Aid in the winter as he is in school all day and can drink a glass of milk or juice in the evenings and after school. In the summer, we try to substitute pitchers of Kool Aid with Gatorade. You can buy powdered Gatorade and mix this up as easily as Kool Aid with some health benefits if your child is active in the outdoors during those warm months. Occasionally, Kool Aid is fine but remember that it is basically sugar water your child is ingesting. Because we have always encouraged juice above other drinks, my son will try almost any kind of juice. I recently purchased a pomegranate juice after reading about pomegranate health benefits and he eagerly tried a glass and loved it! Too much juice in a younger child can be too much, so I do recommend in younger children you break up the juice with lots of water and a few glasses of milk if they drink a lot throughout the day. Because I do limit his soda, I do have to watch when we go out to eat. While when younger he would naturally choose the milk or juice, as he has matured he chooses a soft drink if it is acceptable. Most places like to keep everyone’s drink full. We tell the waitress up front he is allowed one refill then he has to be given water. If he drinks it all before his meal arrives, he drinks water with his dinner. This also helps limit his sugar intake on nights he has to be in bed at a certain time for school.
These are easy tips that any household can maneuver into their grocery budgets and routines. The best way to teach kids good eating habits is to start as early as possible. Remember that children mimic the adult behaviors, so we can set a good example by our own choices in front of them.