By Kiera S. Campbell
For a lot of parents, raising kids who are conscious of choosing healthy food is a lifelong mission. Given the massive health advantages attributed to healthy eating, kids who are trained towards it stand to gain a lot. As parents, it is probably one of the best gifts we can give to our children.
So how exactly do we go about building healthy eating habits in our kids? First thing we need to recognize is that habits are built with positive reinforcement. This means that the more positive and happy things our kids can associate with a certain behavior, the more likely they are to repeat it.
Making healthy food choices is a behavior that is directly influenced by our attitudes and reactions towards it. This is a very important principle to keep in mind if we want to encourage certain behaviors in our children. This principle applies not only to eating habits and food choices, but to other behaviors as well.
Keeping this principle in mind, these are just some of the ways you can help encourage healthy eating in your kids:
1. Make meal times pleasant. Avoid fighting over food or having negative discussions when eating. Especially avoid fighting over fruits and vegetables.
2. Model the behavior you want your kids to follow. This simply means that if you want your kids to eat healthy, then you yourself have to eat healthy. Children naturally follow what their parents do. If they see you enjoying fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to try it and are more likely to enjoy it.
3. Praise them whenever they choose healthy food. Let them see how happy and how proud it makes you that your kids choose to eat the healthy food that you put on their plate.
4. Praise them whenever they TRY new food. Even if they don’t like it the first time they try it, some kids just need to see it served often before they acquire the taste for it. Praising them for trying will leave them open to try the new and healthy dishes that you serve them.
5. Prepare healthy snacks that they can munch on while engaging in recreational activities. In line with creating a lot of positive associations with healthy food, it may be worth your while to prepare healthy food that they can eat when watching TV or movies, reading books, after sports activities and so on.
6. Let your children know what they are eating. We’re all guilty of hiding vegetables in our kids’ food, but sometimes it’s actually better to let them know what goes into their food. Teaching them which foods are healthy will allow them to recognize healthy food when they see it.
7. Involve your children in the preparation. From meal planning to grocery shopping to cooking the food, getting your kids involved, assigning them tasks that they can do will make healthy eating much more fun for them. You can be certain that they’ll be more open to trying food that they helped prepare in some way.
8. Introduce something new once in a while. If you can do this weekly, even better.
9. Eat healthy when eating out. This is a great way to show your kids how you can consistently choose healthy food even when you’re in a different environment. This will definitely reinforce the importance of healthy eating and they’ll also realize how easy and accessible healthy food actually is.
Did you know that healthy eating can cut our kids’ risks for diseases like obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart attack by up to 40%? That’s why it’s absolutely crucial that you instill the habit of eating healthy in your children.