Healthy eating habits are developed over a lifetime, and it’s important to start with your children to place them on a path toward a lifetime of choosing good foods. It’s often a fight to get your little one to try new and healthy foods, so we’ve compiled this list of ideas for you to try next time you’re introducing something to your table.
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1. Eat Breakfast Every Day
Skipping breakfast will leave your child hungry and looking for snacks which are often unhealthy alternatives. They will also be more tired and groggy. Children are also more susceptible to mood swings caused by hunger than adults, so their morning hunger can lead to difficulties for parents and teachers.
2. Plan Healthy Meals to Eat as a Family
Cooking healthy meals and sitting down together to enjoy them promotes family togetherness, and is a great way to teach your children about new foods, and introduce them to flavors they haven’t experienced yet.
3. Offer Choices
Give kids an option between healthy snacks. Let them choose between oranges or green beans. It gives kids a feeling of being in control of their own lives, and still allows you to stay in control of their general nutrition.
4. Allow Children to Serve Themselves
Along with choosing between foods, let your kids serve themselves at dinner time. This promotes the autonomy they desire, but can once again let you control the overall options for diet.
5. Shop Together
At the store, you can explore new and fantastical fruits and vegetables that your kids (and maybe even you) haven’t tried yet like kumquats, star fruit, eggplant, and more. You can make a deal with them that everyone in the family will try whatever kind of healthy snack they choose. You may even find a new favorite dish!
6. Include Your Children in the Cooking Process
Kids are much more likely to try new things if they helped to make it. They will be proud of their accomplishments and contributions, and excited to try the meal they worked to create. When they are younger, this can be as simple as letting them crack eggs or pour ingredients into a pot, and as they mature, they may even be assigned a night where they are in charge of making dinner entirely.
7. Indulge in Smart and Healthy Snacks
As yummy as they are, it’s time to buy less chips, treats, and junk food. But don’t try and sway a rambunctious toddler with plain, raw vegetables, because that’s usually not going to work. Try some of these healthy and fun alternatives to appease your hungry young one:
- Whole grain crackers and cheese
- Apple slices, carrots, or celery with peanut butter
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Unsalted or lightly salted popcorn
- Dried fruit like mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and more
- Low-fat yogurt with fruit
- Natural and whole grain snack crackers
8. Reduce Unhealthy Beverages
Along with snacks, reducing the amount of carbonated and sugary drinks your children consume will be helpful in promoting wellness. Juice is a good alternative, but can be high in calories, so be sure to offer water or low-fat milk more often.
9. Lead by Example
If you are modeling healthy eating for your children, they will be more likely to try new and healthy alternatives. Your kiddos look up to you, and will work to emulate your behaviors. When you reach for a natural juice to sip on instead of cracking open a soda, it will train your children to do the same.
10. Don’t Force Large Portion Sizes
Often, just getting your child to have a few bites of a new vegetable is enough to help them realize the strange green food on their plate is not poison. If they are still hungry, they may even ask for more! Then the next time you have that vegetable, they will be more likely to eat it quickly and have a slightly larger serving.
11. Don’t Ban Unhealthy Foods and Treats Altogether
It’s ok to let your kids have cheesy chips and chocolatey treats every now and then. If cookies and soda are forbidden, they can become even more appealing to children, and they will be more likely to sneak them into their lives wherever possible. Treating your kiddos to fast food every once in a while can be a fun bonding time or special day out, as long as it’s not the dietary normal.
12. Have an Open Attitude
Kids won’t gain knowledge and the desire to eat healthy foods overnight. They naturally want things that taste amazing, and aren’t conscious of their overall health like you are as an adult.
Remember, even if you do everything right, offer choices, include your child in the cooking, and more, they aren’t always going to like every new food you introduce. That’s fine and totally normal! Developing proper eating habits takes a lifetime of experience and experimentation. Keep trying new things, but don’t be too forceful.
Hopefully at least a couple of these methods help your children try out new and healthy foods. Give Hill Family Medicine a call today to set up an annual wellness check up, and continue your journey toward a healthy life. We want to work with you and your children to encourage a healthy and flavorful lifestyle.