Promote the healthy eating that your kids will enjoy.
By Claire Sykes | Edited by Brian Levine and Christie Bacchioni
We all learn it in grade school: foods rich in vitamins, minerals and protein promote strong bones and health. Especially in children. So how, in such a fast-paced world, do you make child’s nutrition a priority and promote the healthy eating that your kids will actually enjoy?
Keep Healthy Eating Options Around the House
It’s impossible to control everything your kids eat. Bad dietary choices are simply everywhere (in grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, vending machines and many school cafeterias). But keeping a variety of healthy foods around the house that are snack-ready and easy to grab-on-the-go, will help to easily change your child’s nutrition habits:
- Choose foods in their most natural state with the fewest additives
- Stock your fridge with organic fruits and veggies that are prepared and snack-ready
- Fill your cupboards with whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, and couscous
- Opt for hormone-free dairy products or dairy alternatives such as soy or rice milk
- Chemical-free meat (choose broiled, grilled or roasted, over fried)
- Keep dried fruit and nuts around
Study Nutrition Labels
If you do buy packaged foods, be sure to study the labels. Check to see whether the food is low in sodium and fat. Too much sodium can contribute to high blood pressure and high saturated fats, can increase cholesterol and eventually clog the arteries.
Don’t stress over whether your children are getting enough protein. There’s plenty of protein in many plant foods—beans, grains, seeds, nuts and vegetables—which also contain excellent fiber and healthy oils.
When it comes to calcium, childhood years are critical for building healthy bones that will remain fracture-resistant for a lifetime. While greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli are not kid favorites, they can be added to recipes such as sandwiches, omelets, pizza and sauce.
Get Your Kids Involved and Be Creative
Encourage your kids to find healthy recipes that they like and then find time to prepare the food together. Make it a weekend tradition or pick a day during the week when you have more time.
Get creative with healthy DIY treats like fat-free yogurt and fruit pops in the summer and hot chocolate made with soy-milk and cacao in the winter. Making it fun for them to eat healthy options (while satisfying their cravings) will go a long way.
Another way to involve your kids is by educating them on healthy food. As you’re cooking, explain to them what you’re making and why the ingredients are great together. Also, let them stir the pot on the stove or serve out the food.
Don’t Make Certain Foods Totally Off Limits
Making certain foods totally off limits can make your children desire them more. Pressuring them to finish their cauliflower or prohibit them from eating cookies can trigger their rebelliousness to sneak sweets or even turn down their favorite food.
Valerie Neill, a top pastry chef of Portland, Oregon who specializes in desserts, naturally will let her two twin toddlers and two teens have some of her delicious creations in-between healthy meals. “We don’t want to be too strict about no treats or they’ll become ‘forbidden fruit,’” she says. “Everything in moderation. It’s more realistic that way.”
Schedule Regular Family Meals
Regularly scheduled, relaxing meals establish a positive relationship with food. When children grow up with pleasant, healthy eating experiences, they’ll take those with them into adulthood.
And the earlier you start, the better. Show your children that the quality time of eating food is just as important as the quality of the food itself. Make time to sit down with your children as a family, and use the time to catch up on each other’s days and make light, easy conversation.
It’s important to put in that extra effort to promote healthy eating with your children. Starting at a young age can teach your kids the skills they need to eat better and get a well-balanced diet, which they will bring into adulthood and pass onto their own kids.
How do you promote healthy eating with your children? Let us know!