Healthy eating for both adults and kids isn’t as tricky as you might think. It does require energy and the understanding that parents are in charge. Parents are able to create the rules but the child has ultimate control over what they put into their mouths.
Healthy eating should be enforced for the child and the whole family. Children thrive and learn through role models. If they are being told one thing, and their parents are doing quite the opposite, they will mimic the parents. It’s the old “Do what I say and not what I do” theory. It just isn’t practical and it doesn’t work.
That said, your first task is to establish a routine. It may be difficult at first but sitting down together for breakfast, lunch and dinner together goes a long way toward developing healthy eating habits. And eating together as a family has also been found to help children build good character as well.
The trick to this task is to be consistent. Children need routine in their lives; just as they thrive on a consistent bedtime routine they also do well with a consistent meal time habit. That meal time habit should include fruit for dessert after dinner and a way to integrate vegetables each day through salads, steamed vegetables and included in the main course.
Some parents, seeking a way to reward their children for their good works, will offer candy or ice cream for work well done. Instead parents should offer other rewards such as their attention – hugs, kisses and smiles – and your time. Children learn habits around their behavior. In other words when children grow up they learn to reward themselves with food each time something goes right in their lives or comfort themselves with food when things go wrong.
Parents can help to develop healthy eating habits in kids and adults by stopping the arguments about sugar and processed food snacks before they start. Leave these snacks at the store. They aren’t helpful to either of you.
When kids are thirsty use water. If they crave flavored water use a squirt from a real lemon or lime. Add ice and you have a great drink with flavor, nutritionally needed by your body and is cheap.
Kids are highly influenced by radio, tv and their friends. When they are begging for sugary, high fat foods they probably learned about them from their friends and the media. It will take persistence, diligence and good role models at home to overcome the influence of people outside the family. The grass is always greener on the opposite side of the fence – even for parents. Those snacks may look good but they don’t fit into healthy eating habits for kids or adults.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but watching television doesn’t fit into a program for healthy eating habits for kids or adults either. How does television affect your eating habits? Sitting in front of the television encourages snacking and definitely doesn’t expend any calories from exercise.
Part of having healthy eating habits includes spending time together as a family. Eating together is important but eating at home consistently is really important. It is so much more difficult to have healthy eating habits when faced with appetizers, fried foods and desserts that no one has to prepare.
Eating at home requires a bit of planning and smart grocery shopping. Before leaving for the store make out a menu and prepare a list from the menu. Leave the high fat, high salt, high processed foods off the list and out of the house. You will be thankful at 10 pm when you are craving the potato chips and they aren’t there to tempt you or the kids.
When you do go shopping find substitutes for the high calorie snacks because snack time will come and without food in the fridge the kids will be left to eat whatever they find. Keep plenty of seasonal fruit cut, cleaned and cubed so kids can reach into the fridge and grab a handful of grapes, cantaloupe or watermelon. An apple core slicer will be a hit to slice and dice an apple quickly. With a spoonful of peanut butter the kids will think they’ve bitten into a carmel apple.
Try getting your kids involved in the meal planning, grocery shopping and snack plans. If the kids are involved they’ll have a vested interested in making the process work. When you are beginning healthy eating tips for kids don’t expect them to like something new immediately. Introduce things slowly and encourage them to keep trying. Show them a good example by eating them yourself!
HelpGuide: Nutrition for children and Teens
KidsHealth: 10 Tips for Parents
Kids Health: Healthy eating
USDAChooseMyPlate: 10 Tips
National Diabetes Education Program: Tips for Kids with Type 2 Diabetes
CardioSmart American College of cardiology: FactSheet
LetsMove: Eat Healthy