“Healthy eating is a way of life, so it’s important to establish routines that are simple, realistically, and ultimately livable.” – Horace
Families today have busy schedules. The “busyness” of our lives can sometimes sway us to make not so healthy food choices. It is easy to stop for fast food as families run from one event after another. But too much of one thing isn’t beneficial to any of us, especially when it comes to food.
Children need healthy foods and a diverse diet to best meet their growth and development needs. Eating healthy isn’t something children readily choose—oftentimes the things they like best are not the healthiest! So they need to be taught healthy eating habits.
It’s a new year and a great time for families to choose to be more focused on overall healthy eating. Here are a few tips on how to do that.
Be a role model. The best way for parents to encourage healthy eating is to be a role model and eat healthy yourself—and it’s a way to take care of your own health at the same time. Your children are watching and paying attention to everything you do including what and how you eat. Not overindulging in junk food and choosing nutritious food options helps send the right message. Serving appropriate portions and talking about your feelings of fullness and enjoyment of food is reinforcing positive eating habits. Also being mindful about how you talk about dieting and your own body image is important. Keeping a positive approach about food and eating is important.
Cook meals at home together. Deciding what to make for dinner can be empowering and exciting for children. Planning and cooking meals gives the opportunity to talk about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Allowing children to participate in age-appropriate tasks during meal preparation includes them in the process, which results in your family having time to reconnect while enjoying a meal everyone had a hand in creating.
Make healthy snacks available. Children eat what’s available. It is important to be intentional about what food is available in the home. Providing healthy snacks such as fruits and vegetables versus ice cream sandwiches and potato chips helps children create healthy eating habits because you are helping make it easy for them to choose a healthy snack.
Create some fun. Cut a new food into fun shapes using cookie cutters. Put a name to the food that a child helped create. For example, “Hannah’s salad” or “Bryson’s sliced apples.” Talking about fun and happy things while eating together helps develop a healthy attitude toward food and meal time.
Healthy eating is important to your child’s health and overall physical and mental development. It’s especially important for children under age five as their brains are developing at an exponential rate. Remember, healthy eating habits learned as a child are more likely to mainstays into adulthood and beyond!