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Good nutritional habits with your child begins with you

Updated on April 8, 2016

Today’s society has changed a lot from when I was younger. As a child, regardless of how busy schedules were of parents, warm meals daily was a norm and no excuse was made for a parent or grandparent to not prepare a healthy meal for the family but now mainly due to poor time management, most households seldom have a home cooked meal daily much less sit down to meals together. Also, as a child if food was cooked and sat down in front of me to eat, eyes weren’t rolled, tears weren’t shed, and I dared not to even mumble the words “I don’t want that.” I wasn’t forced to eat but I was taught at a young age about foods and why certain foods were needed due to nutritional content and benefit to my body and those adults around me who prepared foods made food fun and encouraged me to help with cooking, to help with shopping and in a way just being involved opened my mind to be appreciative and also really wanting to eat different foods. Parents understood that good nutrition planned a big role in healthy bodies of children so although they knew green beans, asparagus and other foods are not the food of choice for children, their priority was not being their child’s friend but to ensure the health of their child but my how things have now changed.

How often does a neighbor’s child, children in your family or you are in a restaurant and hear a parent say “oh, he won’t eat that” or hear a child upset because they have something on their plate they do not want to even taste and try? Parents need to take control of their child’s health now! We all love to keep our children happy and with smiles on their faces but poor nutrition and possible health issues as a result, will be nothing to smile about later. Unless it is food allergies, your child needs to eat healthy foods with only limitation being overeating. It isn’t easy having a picky child but here are some tips to help:

  1. Cut back on junk food. Remember, a child is not working and does not do the shopping, you do. Therefore, you and any adult shoppers in your household are solely accountable for the food choices in the house. The less junk food your child has at their disposable, the more they will turn to other healthier choices you do bring in. An occasional treat is okay but keep them hidden and out of sight.
  2. Involve kids in cooking or meal preparation. Children love fun, so get them in the kitchen and make cooking fun for them. We all know children are prideful and you would be amazed at how a child’s eyes light up when they eat something they helped make and it raises their self-esteem if everyone expresses enjoying the food they assisted with. Give it a try. Think of a food your child does not like and brainstorm with them on what may taste good on it. Try a new marinade, dressing, seasoning, etc. they recommend and let them help with it from start to finish. I’ve seen this work on even the pickiest eater and then the child will wonder why they never gave it a try before. Also, be sure to let your child know that not everyone cooks the same so not to rule out a food because Aunt Sue made it and it tasted bad. I have met children who had never been told this and had I not had the “I cooked it so you need to at least taste it” mentality, a few children would had never fallen in love with certain vegetables or meats that their parents would had put a million dollar bet on I couldn’t get their child to eat.
  3. No, is not an option. Trust me. Your child is not going to be psychologically damaged because you make them try new foods and at least sample what is on their plate. It is only going to hurt their feelings but they will get over it. Many articles from nurtitionist state that by giving your child the choice, enables them to have a choice in their health which at their age, they are not even educated on nutrition to know what is good for them much less have experience in anything much to make adult choices such as what is healthy. As a child, no matter how fussy you didn’t restrict all veggies cause after all, few kids love veggies (and other foods) much right away so if you loved them enough as a baby to ensure their health, it needs to still happen as such now. Some options they are not even close to making yet. Nutritionist also in research studies show that most kids hate foods and when asked why, they can’t tell you because they have not even tried it. Smh. I have heard this firsthand from kids and it ranks among the funniest thing a kid can say. If you hate something, at least have a why and not a “I don’t know…I never tried it..” Remember, take the no option away and control food choices.
  4. Don’t give in. When your child begins to whine or get upset over a food choice, do not accommodate them and step back into the kitchen to make a separate meal and also, do not tell them to go in the kitchen and grab cereal, snack bar or something else you know taste better to them but is not a meal choice. Remember your mom telling you not to run every time they cry to go hold them? Same thing here, if you cease accommodating, they will eat what is given to them. I know sounds so strict but remember, we are trying to grow healthy children not spoil unhealthy children. Don’t become a food police but more like a food probation officer until you are confident your child has learned about nutrition to be able to help in making food decisions.
  5. Be an example. Eat together as a family with your children. This does not have to always be around the table but eat as a family in the same area and let them see you enjoying your food. Most kids mimic and want to be like mom and/or dad so if you are eating right, most often they will follow.
  6. Use dips for veggies. Experiment with dips you know your child loves and use as a veggie dip or as a sauce for veggies your prepare for meals. You just may run into a new favorite side dish enjoyed by your family due to a new dip or flavor. Let your child help in deciding what to experiment with.
  7. Explain and educate about food. Explain to your child what nutrients are needed for body functions and educate how they affect their body. Educate slowly according to child’s age, what vitamins, minerals, nutritional values, etc. are in the foods they eat. Example, milk has calcium and Vitamin D and then explain what role that plays in their body. Kids are curious and they do like to learn.
  8. Research fun and healthy recipes. I will be including a lot of recipes for children that are easy to make and very healthy but also encourage you to Google other recipes they can join in on helping you and that have been rates by children as being good.

My hope is that some of these tips prove helpful to getting your loved one back on track to exploring new food choices and eating healthy.

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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I like the concept of getting children involved in the kitchen. That is what worked for our family. The more our children knew and understood about shopping, preparing, and selecting healthy foods, the better they were at learning to like them! Sure, there is the picky eater in every bunch, but they eventually learned to like a variety of foods when they became involved in the preparation.