As difficult as it can sometimes be for adults to develop healthy eating habits, it can be even more challenging for children. Often children have very sensitive tastes and it seems like most kids have an ingrained aversion to vegetables. It can be challenging to try to get your kids to stick to a healthy diet, and arguments over food can be stressful. Here are several ways to encourage your kids to eat well.
1. Improve Favorite Foods
If your children already have foods they love, you can modify the recipes a little to make them healthier. For example, make macaroni and cheese with whole-grain pasta. If your child drinks juice, choose a brand that uses both fruit and vegetable juices. Switch to the low-sugar cereal brands. Even little changes can help improve your child’s overall health, and start modifying their tastes to prefer the healthier options.
2. Be Flexible
While you may receive some well-intentioned advice along the lines of, “Don’t give them any unhealthy options and they’ll just learn to eat the right stuff,” this is not the case for many families. Battles of will over food are stressful and rarely productive. Encouraging healthy eating without setting rigid rules often works better than a hardline stance. For example, you could require that your children try every component of dinner, but don’t make them to finish things they don’t like. It’s also helpful to remember than most children outgrow picky eating on their own.
3. Cook With Your Kids
One great way to encourage your child to try new food and make healthy choices is to teach them how to cook. Often children are more open to trying new, healthy foods if they helped make them. Cooking together also allows you to learn more about how your child views food and the tastes he is curious about, so you can try to adjust recipes accordingly.
4. Cut Down on Sugar
Most doctors and nutritionists agree that the biggest problem with most children’s diets is the high amount of sugar. There is sugar in everything, especially pre-processed foods, and the amount of sugar most children consume in a day is extremely high. Even slightly lessening the amount of sugar consumed is a step in the right direction. Try reducing the amount of sugar in recipes gradually or substitute natural sweeteners. Read the labels of the products you buy and choose ones that aren’t full of sugar and corn syrup.
5. Choose Healthy Brands
Fortunately, much of American food culture has started to trend toward healthy eating and as a result there are several brands producing healthier options. You no longer have to go to an exclusive health food store to find them. In fact, you can find HamptonCreek products such as vegan Just Mayo and several other healthy options in the grocery section of national chains Walmart and Target. Hampton Creek is committed to releasing several other foods such as baking mixes and an egg substitute in the near future.
6. Focus on Nutrition, not Appearance
Especially for older kids, one of the worst ways to approach healthy eating is to threaten them with dire predictions about being “fat.” Not only does this severely damage a child’s self-esteem, it promotes an incorrect motivation for eating well. It’s far better for your child’s mental and emotional state to focus on how healthy eating gives the body the right fuel to grow properly and do fun things such as play sports.
7. Add Supplements
Despite the best intentions, some children just won’t choose to eat enough healthy foods to get all the nutrition necessary. Adding a good multi-vitamin, or even targeted supplements such as calcium chews, can help your child get the nutrients he needs for health without constantly worrying or fighting about food choices. There are many good brands of children’s vitamins. You can get advice from your child’s doctor if you aren’t sure which ones would be best for your child.
Helping your child make healthy eating choices is one of the most difficult parts of parenting. It can be frustrating for everyone, but there are some ways to make it work. The main thing to remember is the goal to train your child to make healthy choices for himself. Modifying recipes to include healthier ingredients and reducing sugar intake are good steps. You can choose healthier brands at your local supermarket and add supplements to ensure your child is getting all the necessary nutrients. With gentle encouragement, most children outgrow pickiness and learn to choose and enjoy healthy foods.