Every parent knows about the importance of their children’s nutritional needs, yet it is very easy to feel overwhelmed and not know how to proceed when your child’s behavior and preferences are constantly changing. However, early childhood is the ideal time to promote healthy eating habits, as most things that are learned during this formative period can easily be carried into adulthood. So, here are some ways you can establish healthy eating habits for young children, and help them grow into healthy adults:
Shop for your ingredients carefully
If you don’t buy certain produce and products, your child most likely won’t get the chance to try it and enjoy it. Whenever you go shopping for food, try to choose fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and whole-grain foods. Opt for healthy snacks your child can nibble on if they get hungry in between breakfast and lunch and do your best to avoid fast and junk food, as well as sugary and carbonated drinks, as these things can easily prevent your child from eating a healthy and balanced diet.
Try to introduce new foods regularly
When preparing a meal, try to introduce new foods and ingredients into your dish, as this is one of the simplest ways to get your child to try and even acquire a taste for different, healthier foods. As it might take several tries before a child accepts new foods, don’t be afraid to get creative during meal planning, and remember to be patient and persistent. Introduce new ingredients one at a time, and always offer them along with foods your child already likes, instead of surprising them with completely new foods all at once.
Promote a healthy attitude towards food
Try not to reward your child with food for good behavior or a completed task, as it sends the wrong message, especially considering the fact that most foods offered as rewards are not usually healthy options. Another important thing is to allow your kids to tell you when they are full and finished with their meal, instead of making them clean their plate. This will help them learn how to naturally regulate the amount of food they need, preventing them from getting into the habit of overeating.
Provide your children with a good role model
One of the simplest ways to promote healthy eating habits among your children is to lead by example and establish your own healthy diet. However, setting a good example at home might not always be enough. Children’s early mental and cognitive development is also heavily influenced by their peers and people they are surrounded with every day, which is why it might be a good idea to enroll your child in a great playgroup that focuses on nurturing and nourishment. This will help your child develop healthier eating habits from an early age, allowing them to make healthier choices as they grow.
Involve your kids in nutrition
Even if your children are still quite young, it’s essential to encourage them to give you a hand in the kitchen. Whether it’s something as simple as handing you ingredients and stirring the pot or even more complicated tasks such as chopping and dicing, having your child help you in the kitchen will make them more curious about cooking and more open to trying new meals. Of course, no matter how your child is helping you in the kitchen, the most important thing is to follow safety guidelines, pay close attention to them, and only give them simple, age-appropriate tasks.
Turn meals into family bonding time
Another way to easily promote a healthy attitude towards food is to establish regular routines that revolve around meals. For example, you can sit down at the table as a whole family at least once every day, and make that mealtime fun and interesting by chatting casually while trying new foods together. This small habit can help bring you closer together as a family and promote family unity, while undeniably improving your child’s attitude towards healthy food, allowing them to make better food choices, and ultimately improving your child’s nutrition.
Don’t forget about physical activity
Even though a healthy diet is essential for a child’s development, it’s simply not enough for maintaining overall health and well-being. That is why healthy eating should always be paired with physical activity and exercise options that are most suited to your kids. Remember, every child should be physically active for at least one to two hours every day, including outdoor activities such as going to the park, going swimming, riding a bike or playing age-appropriate team sports games with their friends.
Instead of being a strict set of rules, this list should be seen as a daily practice you can easily implement into your routine. It will help you teach your children the most important health lessons, allowing them to grow up equipped with positive habits to support a lifetime of good health.