As a parent, it’s your job to encourage your children to develop and learn new healthy habits. And nutrition is no exception.
It’s easy to lose track of our kids’ diet with the profusion of candy, snacks, and soda that seem just irresistible. Companies are always on the lookout for the next big marketing move to bring in more consumers to their products, and you can bet that your kids are one of their targets.
That’s why you should come up with a marketing campaign of your own – one that promotes healthy foods and balanced meals.
You can be sure that whatever your kids learn early in their life will bring lifelong benefits to them. Here are 11 tips to help you instill healthy eating habits in your children and teach them how to evaluate their food and lifestyle choices in the future.
1. Be a role model
That doesn’t mean you should be perfect all the time. But if your children see you taking time to prepare healthy meals and being physically active, they will notice your efforts. By doing that, you will be sending a message that good health and physical activity are important in your family.
2. Let them choose
Even if your kids are picky eaters, it’s best to allow them to choose from what’s on the table. Let them know that it’s okay if they pick just one or two things. Remember that you are not a cook who takes orders from your kids. Decide what you will serve and stick to it. If your child doesn’t want to eat the entire meal or a part of it, don’t stand up too quickly whip up something different. Accept that your kid might like some meals and leave others untouched.
3. Adopt the two bite rule
It’s smart to implement the two bite rule as well. Encourage your kids to try two bites of a new food. If they do that and still don’t want to eat it, drop the topic and stop insisting that they finish their portion.
If you routinely offer a range of different foods, you can be sure that your child gets the nutrition they need. Also, don’t forget that kids will not eat as much as you will. Their portion sizes should be proportional to their body size and age.
4. Set realistic goals
It will take time before your kids adopt new eating behaviors. Don’t expect them to change their entire eating habits from one day to another. Change happens through small steps.
Allow for that type of gradual change and be patient – it will make a huge difference to your kids’ their health over time. Start small and build up on every step that your kids make.
Don’t forget to be positive. Instead of telling your children what not to do, show them what they can do instead. Celebrate their progress and little successes to help them develop a good self-image.
5. Don’t forbid foods
Nothing tastes better than the forbidden fruit.
Even if you’re tempted to make some foods off-limits, you can be sure that these forbidden foods will become even more attractive to children and they will tend to overeat on them whenever they get the chance.
Instead, implement a balanced approach by offering healthier treats together with smaller portions of the treats you don’t want your kids to eat.
Make sure that you follow the same rules when it comes to nutrition. For example, the entire family may have ice cream, but everyone should have the same portion. If you find a way to incorporate forbidden foods on rare occasions, your children will develop a healthier approach to them.
6. Avoid rewarding your kids with snacks or sweets
Instead of rewarding your children for a job well done with candy or snacks, find other ways to celebrate and encourage good behavior. By putting unhealthy foods in the position of a reward, you will be indirectly encouraging unhealthy eating habits.
7. Make dinnertime a family habit
It’s important for families to sit down together once a day to have a meal. That way you will be ensuring that children don’t eat the wrong foods or snacks on unhealthy foods too much. It’s smart to get kids involved in planning meals and cooking them. One way to develop good eating habits is by doing the hard work together. And that quality time you spend with your family will only be a bonus.
8. Read food labels in a fun way
If you often do grocery shopping with your children and they insist on buying products that contain chemical preservatives and other potentially harmful substances, you can make reading food labels into a game.
The entire family will have an opportunity to learn what is right for their health and be more conscious about what they eat. Teach your children how to read nutrition labels and which ingredients are essential. Tell them which ingredients will make you feel bad.
Reading food labels is a habit that will stick with them for a lifetime and encourage them to take informed nutrition choices.
9. Keep trying
Here is something you should know: children may need to be exposed to a food 10 to 20 times before they decide whether they like it or now.
So accept the fact that it might take you many tries before your children determine whether they are willing to eat the food or now. Be prepared to offer your child spinach or broccoli countless times before succeeding. But the rule above also means that if your kid rejects a food, you can try introducing it again in a few weeks.
10. Let your kids choose veggies
It’s a good idea to let your children choose which vegetables will be served for dinner. By helping to prepare the vegetables, they will feel proud, and their willingness to eat the veggies will be higher. It goes for every other type of foods as well: if your child is involved in making a dish, they are far more likely to try it.
11. Pair new foods with foods your children like
By doing that, you will make your kids feel more comfortable. Create a variety of textures and colors in your dishes. That’s especially important when it comes to veggies and fruit. If your child never sees a green vegetable, they will grow into an adult who never eats green vegetables. By not being exposed to new foods, your kids will simply have no opportunity for developing healthy eating habits.
Follow these 11 steps, and you’ll be on your way to instilling healthy habits in your children and ensuring that they make smart nutrition decision in their adult life.