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How to get Kids to Eat Healthy
We're all increasingly aware of the importance of getting our kids to eat healthy. Kids who eat healthy do better in school, are more awake and alert and are more likely to proceed along normal developmental paths. Equally as important, kids who learn to eat healthy at a young age develop the habits that they'll need to stay healthy all throughout their lives. But knowing that our kids need to eat healthy and actually getting kids to eat healthy are two different things.
Here are some tips for how to get kids to eat healthy:
- Set a good example. If you don't eat healthy, your kids are going to pick up on the fact that maybe they don't need to eat healthy either. Be sure to practice what you preach.
- Keep only healthy foods at the house. If your kids have only healthy foods to choose from and healthy meals at home, they're going to learn to eat healthy. Treats should be enjoyed occasionally so that kids learn healthy moderation in their indulgences.
- Don't use food as a reward or punishment. Giving treats when kids do well at something seems harmless. Taking away dessert when kids are acting up at the table makes sense at the time. But these habits tend to let kids equate food with power, a situation which can become quite unhealthy as time goes on. It's better to use other reward and punishment systems that aren't related to food to keep this problem at bay.
- Avoid power struggles with your kids. If you have a really picky eater at home, it can be easy to make eating healthy a power play. You'll never really win. Even if you get your child to eat his vegetables, you create an unhealthy situation.
- Teach your kids about nutrition. You should inform your kids from a young age about the importance of eating healthy so that it's just a natural part of their lives. You don't have to drill it in to them, just make them aware of it as you would any other important life lessons you want them to know. Keep books and magazines about healthy eating in the house and keep the topic open for regular discussion.
- Know what your kids eat. You'd be surprised how many parents don't know what their kids eat, especially as they get older. Kids are going to trade lunches, pick up after school snacks and eat at friends' houses. That's okay; you don't have to be excessively vigilant. But you should know more or less what your kids are eating. This way you can see if there's an unhealthy change in your child's diet. For example, girls going through body changes may stop eating healthy because they fear gaining weight. If you catch it early on, you can correct the problem with nutritional education instead of having to remedy it later on when damage has been done.
- Make eating healthy fun. Enjoy mealtimes together. Provide your kids with choices about what they eat (an array of healthy options makes it easier to pick some healthy foods). And make the meal about spending time together, sharing the day's stories and being thankful for good food. This way, meals are associated with positive, healthy experiences which will translate into better eating habits down the road.