Healthy Eating Habits for Kids - Help Your Children Develop Healthy Habits
With the following, I hope you feel empowered and inspired to take a few simple steps to better health, for you and your children!
It is well known that the majority of disease is preventable through good nutrition. Good nutrition and other important health habits are best established in childhood. Parental support and involvement are essential to successfully establishing good health habits for children.
Imagine a world in which your kids have a healthy start each day and you can’t remember the last time your child was sick! Imagine your kids eat their vegetables – even the green ones! Simple changes can make a huge difference.
Here are a few tips to help improve your child’s eating habits:
- Model wise nutritional choices. Just as you should model good behavior for your children, this is just as important. Refuse to purchase junk food and your child will have to get used to choosing healthy alternatives.
- Shape tastes when they’re young – you have a golden opportunity to influence your child’s lifelong eating habits by starting early. If your kids are brought up used to the tastes of freshly prepared foods that are unsalted and unsweetened, they’ll most likely not care for artificial tastes later in life.
- Don’t give in! Learn to say no, especially at the grocery store, even if your child throws a tantrum for candy – preprogram them to expect only healthy treats, like string cheese or all-natural rolled fruit snacks.
- Kids love to have fun with food, so be creative in the way it’s presented to them. Kids also love to “dip” food, so give them different dips, like hummus, guacamole and yogurt or a cheese sauce to dip veggies into. Kids also love the novelty of eating from something different – use an ice cube tray or a muffin tin filled with assorted healthy foods and dips for their meal. This concept can also be used for snacks - fill the separate areas with healthy snacks and leave it out on the table so your child can "graze" throughout the day.
- Start the water habit early! With babies, it should be the first thing offered after breast milk or formula. Hold off on juices. If your child has already gotten used to sweetened drinks such as juice, then first of all be sure you’re giving your child 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar or artificial colors. Next, gradually water it down until the juice is mostly water.
- Use creative language for healthy foods, like “grow food” – all kids love to hear about growing and if you convince them that they need “grow food” to grow instead of junk food, you’re off to a good start!
- Many people shy away from more nutritious choices due to budgetary constraints, but if at all possible, spend a little more to make sure you’re getting nutritious options such as whole-grain crackers and breads, no-sugar-added 100 percent fruit juices and organically grown produce. In the long run, you’ll be spending a lot less on doctor bills – so spend it on your kids’ health instead!
- Make sure you’re well aware to be safe with foods that can cause choking in children: cherries with pits, hard candy, mouthfuls of raisins, stringy foods, whole grapes, meat chunks, nuts, globs of peanut butter, popcorn, whole olives and raw fruits and vegetables that are not shredded, sliced wafer thin or steamed. Hot dogs are neither nutritious nor safe, but many kids are fed hot dogs. They are full of nitrites and sodium, and are sized just right to get lodged in a child’s windpipe. If you insist on feeding your child a hot dog, slice it lengthwise in long noodle-like strips – and consider trying a nitrite-free or veggie version.
- Get your child’s brain and body off to a good start each day with a nutritious breakfast. If you’re too rushed or your child refuses to eat breakfast, try a healthy breakfast smoothie – it’s a great way to get protein, carbohydrates, fiber and healthy fats into your child when they wake up with not much of an appetite.