Healthy Eating Habits for Kids 101
Has your dinner table become a constant battle ground for getting your kids to eat their veggies? Do you pack their lunch containers full of healthy foods, only for them to bring it back still half full? Are you worried that you are failing at the responsibility of feeding your children healthy foods? Chances are, you’re putting too much pressure on your kids– and yourself.
Dress up the essentials.
In 2015, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines regarding healthy food for children. In short, they advise parents to continue to offer a variety of foods from the five major food groups. These are vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and quality protein. However, they also recommend using sugars, fats, and oils as needed to increase consumption of foods from these groups. So if you can only get your child to eat broccoli if it’s topped with cheese, go for it! If your child will eat fresh carrots and celery only if they’re dunked in ranch, encourage it! Rather than thinking of healthy eating as “yes” foods and “no” foods, look at your child’s diet as a whole. Offer up healthy choices in ways that are also pleasing to the palate.
Offer the good stuff, but don’t push it.
While it may be tempting to bribe, cajole, convince, demand, reward, or insist that your child eat the veggies on his/her plate, resist! Doing so just encourages a power struggle. And it reinforces the negative impression he/she has of a particular food. As a parent, your responsibility is to purchase and prepare the food. What happens beyond that is up to your child. Don’t give up on green beans just because your child turned up his nose at them once. If you commit to offering a variety of healthy foods prepared in different ways, chances are your child will learn to like some of them in time.
Set a good example for healthy eating.
“Do as I say, not as I do” is a failed parenting tactic no matter how you slice it. If you expect your child to try new and different things, you must, too. So if brussel sprouts are on the menu for your kids, they should be on yours too! You’ll set an example for having a flexible, evolving palette. It’s also important to model for your child how to politely decline a food you’ve tried but don’t like. Modeling is an effective parenting strategy, so use it to help your child develop the right attitude towards trying different foods.
Good food is essential to good health. Don’t become discouraged if you feel like your kids are not eating as healthily as they should. Commit (or recommit) yourself to offering a variety of healthy choices that appeal to your child’s sense of taste and texture. You may be surprised by what they learn to love!