Peer pressure and television commercials for unhealthy food can make getting your kids to eat well an uphill battle. Factor in your own hectic schedule and it’s no wonder that many kids’ diets are built very much around convenience foods and takeout. However, switching to a healthier diet that focuses on more whole foods can have a profound effect on your child’s health, helping them to maintain a healthy weight, stabilize their moods, sharpen their minds, and avoid a variety of health problems.
Stephanie Loukrezis is a hospitality professional and full-time traveling mom with a deep passion for providing her family with delicious, healthy meals inspired by her travels. With a particular preference for Greek cuisine, Stephanie has found multiple ways to incorporate a Mediterranean-style diet into her children’s daily lives.
“I believe that a focus on whole, nourishing foods is absolutely vital in making sure your kids feel good about themselves and develop a good relationship with food as a whole,” says Stephanie. “That isn’t to say you can’t let your kids have treats, but you need to move the conversation of food away from ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and focus on more positive language, like nourishment and feeling good.”
It’s important to remember that your kids aren’t born with a craving for French fries and pizza and an aversion to vegetables and fruits. This conditioning happens over time as they’re exposed to more and more healthy food choices. However, it’s possible to reprogram your children’s food preferences so that they crave healthier foods instead.
“The sooner you introduce wholesome, nutritious choices into a child’s diet, the easier they’ll be able to develop a healthy relationship with food that can last them a lifetime,” says Stephanie. “It’s a lot simpler and less time-consuming than you’d imagine. With some of my tips, you can implement healthy eating habits without turning mealtimes into an absolute war zone and give your kids the best opportunity to grow into healthy balanced adults.”
Encourage healthy eating habits
Whether your kids are toddlers or in their teens, children develop a natural preference for the foods that they enjoy the most. In order to encourage healthy eating habits, you have to make nutritious choices appealing.
“It’s better to focus on overall diet rather than specific foods – especially if your kids have ‘fear foods’ that are going to be super upsetting to make them eat,” explains Stephanie. “Ideally, kids should be eating a whole, minimally processed diet, including food that is as close to its natural form as possible, and less packaged or processed food. For me, this could look like a delicious Paidakia with a colorful salad and roasted vegetables.”
Be a role model
The childhood impulse to imitate is very strong, especially in younger kids. So, it only makes sense not to ask your kid to eat vegetables while you munch on potato chips. If you model healthy eating behaviors, your kids will feel more inclined to follow suit. You have to demonstrate the desired behavior and remove the “do it because I told you so” mentality that triggers rebelliousness. If your kids see you enjoying a varied, healthy diet, they’re more likely to want to follow in your footsteps.
Cook meals at home
“Try your best to cook the majority of your meals at home. I know that restaurant meals are convenient, but they’re also more likely to have added sugar and unhealthy fats that you just won’t get by making a healthy homemade meal,” says Stephanie. “If you do decide to eat out, try to find restaurants that offer healthier alternatives or at least keep takeout food to a minimum.”
Sometimes, cooking in large batches, or cooking just a few times can be enough to feed your family for an entire week. Don’t be afraid of even prepping multiple freezer meals on a free day to allow yourself the grace of not having to come up with a comprehensive menu every single day. This can help save you time (and as a bonus, money) rather than spending cash on lower-grade convenience meals.
Make mealtimes about more than just healthy food
Making time to really sit down as a family and eat a home-cooked meal not only sets a great example for kids about the importance of healthy foods, but it’s also an opportunity to bring the family together. That includes the moody teenagers who enjoy a good home-cooked meal – even if they’d prefer to eat it in their bedrooms most days.
“Regular family meals provide kids with a lot of comfort. Knowing the whole family will sit down together to eat a meal at the same time every day can be very comforting for kids, and may even trigger their appetites. “Kids may not realize it, but they love a good routine that’s easy to predict that eliminates the fear of the unknown.”
While getting your kids to eat healthily can be a challenge, with some of these steps, you can have your picky mini-mes eating well in no time.