We all want our children to develop healthy eating habits. We know that it’ll set them up for a life of health. They’ll be able to make active, informed choices. They’ll understand the importance of choosing healthy, organic-based options over highly processed food. They’ll, perhaps most importantly, happily eat what’s on the plates in front of them. That’s the dream, anyway.
However, the reality for many parents is that getting your children to EAT, let alone HEALTHILY, can sometimes be a huge uphill battle. Dealing with over-tired, cranky kids who have low tolerances to trying new things can often have us pulling our hair out. Sometimes (often) it’s all too easy to fall back on quick, junky options that will fill bellies but also create cavities.
So what’s the answer? How can we promote healthy eating habits in children who are too young to understand the health benefits of making better choices?
Simple! As Mary Poppins once said, “In every job that must be done, there’s an element of FUN”. Here’s how you can make dinner time (and lunch time… and breakfast…) FUN for the family at the same time as promoting healthy eating habits. Fingers crossed, anyway!
Healthy Eating Habits Tip: The Taste Plate
A big, prepared meal can be daunting to a little kid. Presenting them with only one option can lead to the mother of all tantrums – pushing your healthy eating habits journey back that one step further.
Chop up a variety of healthy options – carrots, ham, cheese cubes, zucchini, wrap bread. Present them to your child on a platter and allow them to dictate and negotiate their own meal.
Presenting your child with choices (even controlled choices) means that they’ll feel more comfortable in making decisions. Awarding children with autonomy and the ability to make decisions for themselves puts them in a position where they feel like they are being heard. This can go a long way towards combatting issues to do with food refusal.
Healthy Eating Habits Tip: Kids In The Kitchen
Get those little hands to work!
Ask your children to be involved in the food making process. Measuring, pouring, stirring – these are all simple activities (which they’ll make more time-consuming!) but they go a long way towards allowing children to feel more comfortable with the food process.
Healthy Eating Habits Tip: Sustainability
Why not ask your children if they’d like to be involved in the hands-on side of growing healthy food?
Create a pallet garden in your backyard or on the verandah of your flat. It’s easy to grow basic herbs, certain vegetables like lettuce and maybe even a couple of coloured flowers to add some pizazz! Let the kids see what’s involved with a ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy and see if that moves them in the direction of fostering healthy eating habits.
Healthy Eating Habits Tip: Picnic Pals!
It’s funny how children work, isn’t it? We can tell them things until we’re blue in the face and they won’t listen. Get them in front of their little mates, however, and it soon becomes a game of follow the leader!
Organise a picnic with some fellow parents with children of similar ages and see what happens. Offer healthy snacks like carrots with hummus dip, small sandwiches, fruit platters and the like and let the kids take the lead. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that, more likely than not, your child will happily follow the path that others lay out for them.
After the picnic, see if you can replicate those same snacks at home to let nature take its course. Fingers crossed, you’ll soon find your child asking for the delicious treats that their friends love so much! The power of the cool kids club, huh?
Healthy Eating Habits Tip: Food Art!
How can you make healthy foods fun?
Try making little personal pizzas and shaping the ingredients to form a smiley face. Create mini little food towers (a la Master Chef) or decorate porridge with colourful berries.
Kids respond to visual appeal and putting some effort into presentation won’t just score you points on My Kitchen Rules – it might also make YOUR kitchen a little less stressful!
Fostering healthy eating habits in kids
Food is often a battleground for parents and it really doesn’t have to be. The key is to allow children the space to ‘find their way’ and figure out the foods that their bodies will respond to. Food refusal can be very stressful – if you have any concerns about your child you should make sure you speak to a health professional.
Eating together and enjoying a meal can be a hugely rewarding time of day for your family. It’s a time to connect and recalibrate together. Ensuring that your children are developing healthy eating habits will help make this special time of day easier.
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