Children must eat healthy foods to help their bodies and brains grow and avoid diseases. Kids with healthy eating habits are also more likely to make healthy choices as adults. However, with fast food and candy providing such tantalizing options, getting your kids to eat right can be tough. Follow this advice to encourage your children to eat healthy, no matter their age.
Plant Fruits and Vegetables
Planting fruits and vegetables at home will help your children understand where healthy foods come from. The growing process can really excite children; don’t be surprised if they’re much keener to eat the fruits and vegetables you grow than anything from the grocery store. Homegrown produce also tends to taste better, which should help overcome any reluctance they have. A backyard garden is ideal, but don’t dismiss the idea if you’re short on space. Strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and herbs can grow in small pots on your patio or on your windowsill.
Get Kids in the Kitchen
Expand on that idea of helping your kids understand where food comes from by getting them involved in the kitchen. This process can start with creating meal plans. Working on a meal plan together can improve your family’s organization and minimize the risk of mealtime tantrums. What’s there to complain about when your kids chose what you’re eating? When your children are used to making a meal plan, they’re likely to continue the habit when they’re in college.
Even small children can then help you cook the meals. Make sure to allocate age-appropriate tasks. For example, small children can measure ingredients and stir mixes, while older kids can chop ingredients and brown them off in a pan. Kids usually feel so proud of the healthy dishes they create that they’re happy to eat it without a fuss. Kids who cook are also more likely to experiment with new ingredients and eat more widely.
Eat Meals as a Family
With parents typically working full-time and being run off their feet with errands and social engagements when they’re not, finding time to eat as a family can seem like mission impossible. However, there are some compelling reasons to carve out time to share a meal with your partner and kids.
A Stanford University study found that nine- to 14-year-olds who ate family meals consumed more fruits and veggies and less fried foods and soda than their peers. Their diets also contained more fiber, calcium, and iron. Eating meals as a family lets you model healthy eating habits and talk about good food, which can benefit kids of all ages.
Limit Unhealthy Foods
Make any food taboo, and your kids are likely to want it all the more. Eating a truly balanced diet is about enjoying a little of everything, including life’s indulgences. Limit unhealthy foods like desserts and fried foods, rather than banning them outright, to make sure your children develop a healthy relationship with these treats.
Children of all ages need a helping hand to make healthy eating choices. While leaving them to their own devices might be easier, your efforts today will benefit their health now and in the future.
photo source: Flickr woodleywonderworks