10 Tips for Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits in Your Kids
Help your kids develop a healthy relationship with food by trying these effective tips.
Your child’s diet affects just about every facet of their physical and mental development, from their future adult health to how they perform in school. Healthy eating habits reduce the risk of your child developing diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, and helps prevent tooth decay. Diet also has a big effect on cognitive function and behavior by improving memory, focus, and mood.
Feeding your kids healthy meals is only the start of helping them develop lifelong healthy eating habits. Here are 10 other things you can do to get your kids interested in eating a balanced diet and guide them towards a positive relationship with food.
1. Show your kids what healthy eating habits look like by practicing them yourself.
Kids are pros when it comes to mimicry so it comes as no surprise that parents’ habits have a profound impact on their kids’ eating habits. Take advantage of the “monkey see, monkey do” effect by first showing your kids what healthy eating is all about by practicing it yourself. You’ll find that your kids may very well begin to choose an apple over chips or a glass of water over juice without any prompting from you other than simply copying your actions.
2. Keeping unhealthy or processed foods out of the house makes it easier to resist cravings.
By purging your house of unhealthy foods and limiting processed items you’re achieving a few different things. Cravings will be much easier to control, you’ll be encouraged to cook more, and your kids will have more freedom in choosing what they’d like to eat without as much supervision.
3. Inspire your kids to get involved with cooking by asking them for help or allowing them to pick recipes.
Getting your kids excited about cooking gives them a chance to develop important skills, view home-cooking as a normal habit, and have fun with their family. When you’re cooking a meal, ask your kids to give you a hand. Better yet, let your kids regularly pick out tasty but healthy recipes for everyone to make together.
4. Starting a small garden is a great way to put veggies on the table while teaching your kids where food comes from.
Starting a small garden in your yard or a container garden on your balcony is a great project for families. Not only will it put some lettuce, tomatoes, and other veggies on your table, but it’s also an incredibly effective way to get kids interested in wanting to eat healthy foods. It’s hard to resist eating the food you’ve worked hard to grow.
Check out the Kids Gardening website to help you get started.
5. Make water the staple beverage in your house by saving other drinks for special occasions.
Most parents are already aware of the problems with soda, but did you know that sports drinks and juices can be just as bad for your child’s health? Shift your kids to water as their primary beverage and limit other drinks to being a treat, like you would with a sweet snack.
You can get your kids excited about water by buying them colorful water bottles, using fun-shaped ice-cube trays, and experimenting with fruit infusions.
6. Offer your kids different healthy options rather than pushing them to eat one single item.
Pushing your kids to eat a healthy food item they don’t enjoy could potentially backfire. A better option is to give your child a choice of healthy options, especially at the beginning of a dietary lifestyle change where they may be picky. For example, offer two different vegetable options and let your child decide. Gently encourage them to try new things whenever possible, but don’t force the idea. With time you’ll find your kids begin to want new healthy foods.
7. Prevent overeating habits by limiting (or banning) screentime during meals or snacks.
The first link between obesity in kids and watching TV was discovered back in 1985. Allowing kids to watch TV or surf on their phone while eating can negatively affect their diet in a few ways. Studies show people are more likely to overeat when distracted by something on the TV. Television ads of the latest sugary snacks or a new Happy Meal toy can also spark cravings in kids.
This doesn’t mean you need to eradicate family movie and pizza night, but simply pay closer attention to what your kids are doing while eating. For example, at dinner time you may choose to ban screens but for breakfast, morning cartoons may be allowed.
8. Work up a healthy appetite by playing with your kids followed by healthy post-play snacks.
Playing with your kids grows your relationship and it helps you stay more active. It also sparks an opportunity to teach your kids about healthy refueling snack options after playing or exercising. It’s normal to crave sweets after exercising so this gives you a chance to show your kids how fruit, healthy protein, and water are better than sugary drinks, candy, or chips after a play session.
9. Get the family together for a full dental care routine immediately after supper.
Having teeth means having a healthy body. Making bedtime brushing a family affair ensures everyone is properly brushing and flossing, but it also has an impact on your kids’ eating habits. By having your kids brush their teeth right after dinner it helps curb the urge for last-minute bedtime snacking.
10. Family mealtimes help strengthen family ties as much as it helps promote healthy eating habits.
Last but not least is the all-important family mealtime. Having everyone sit down to share a meal does a lot for bringing your family closer together and it also promotes healthy eating habits. Research shows that kids whose families share meals eat more vegetables and fruit, eat healthier portion sizes, and grow to be less picky eaters. If you need some easy healthy recipes, check out this post.
Changing eating habits isn’t always easy, but the effort is well worth the reward.
As every parent knows, kids can be stubborn and resistant to changes when they want to be. When it comes to changing eating habits, this resistance can be even stronger, especially when your child is already used to consuming processed foods, sweets, and other less-than-healthy foods.
The key is to introduce new habits slowly and be persistent once you’ve begun to adopt a new healthy eating habit. Stick with it and soon your child will view their new healthy diet as the new normal.