Do you find it difficult to get your kids to eat healthy? Are they picky? Do they only want boxed cereal for dinner? Children have the highest requirement for nutrients due to their rapid rate of growth and development. It is vitally important that we provide them with healthy options to support optimal health and instil good eating habits for the future. Nutritionally complete meals are a must! It may be difficult at first, but the rewards will last a lifetime.
The following are some tips and tricks to help you change your child’s perceptions towards healthy foods. Try them out and see if they work.
Education is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your child. Be conscious of what you are feeding your child and what their nutritional needs are. Beware of hidden food additives such as chemicals, colourants, salt, sugar and nitrates. Teach your child the difference between how healthy foods affect their body in comparison to unhealthy foods.
Above all else, lead by example. The best way for your children to learn healthy eating habits is by observing what goes in your mouth.
2. DO NOT BRIBE
Easier said than done right? Unfortunately, using food as a bribe can diminish the value of healthy foods, while promoting unhealthy foods as a treat for good behaviour. Further, it can cause emotional eating in their future. If at all possible, we want to avoid using food as a bribe.
3. ENSURE AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Exercise is an important part of growth and development and helps improve overall wellbeing. Using up extra energy will have your children demanding their next meal, even if it is healthy.
4. INVOLVE THEM
Children love helping out in the kitchen. It can be as simple as asking them to identify the food you are cutting up or asking their opinion on which vegetable should go on the shish kabab next. When a child feels that their opinions matter and they are allowed to make decisions, they will be more open to eating what is on their plate.
5. FOLLOW THE 80/20 RULE
Unless they are under your constant supervision, it is not realistic to expect children to eat healthy all the time. The 80/20 rule allows for a solid foundation of healthy eating at home with room for ‘treats’ and experimentation when out of the house. This helps to avoid isolation and deprivation. It also allows for freedom and independence.
6. BE CONSISTENT
It is vitality important that as a parent you are consistent and persistent in your resolve to feed your children healthy foods. It may not be easy at times, but by providing structure and a routine for your child, you will instil these healthy habits in them.
Eating wholesome foods at home is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children.
7. BE CREATIVE
Kids love different shapes and colours. Make food fun and visually interesting. This doesn’t mean adding synthetic colouring to your child’s food. Instead, use the vast variety of foods we have available to us. You know your child best, so use your imagination to come up with fun ways of dressing up healthy foods. If all else fails, being creative might even mean being sneaky. For example, puréed foods can go unnoticed in some of your child’s favourite meals. Smoothies are also an excellent way to add all sorts of nutrients to your child’s diet. For example – spirulina, greens for kids, flax oil, etc. You will be providing super nutrition without them even knowing it.
8. ALLOW FOR INDEPENDENCE
Kids will often challenge their parents because of a natural desire for independence. Instead of fighting them on this natural desire, why not cater to it. This doesn’t mean that a parent should be expected to make 3 different meals for each member of the family. It simply means that healthy alternatives and variety could be provided in one meal. For example, by providing two types of vegetables, your child can pick which one he or she prefers.
9. DESSERTS SHOULD BE NUTRITIONALLY COMPLETE
Eating healthily doesn’t mean that you have to deprive your child of dessert. Instead, make sure that your dessert complements the meal and is nutritionally complete. A dessert that is nutritionally complete is one that does not only contain carbohydrates. Try to include protein and fat as well. This will provide the added nutrient for your child and also balance their blood sugar levels.
10. EAT WITH ABUNDANCE
Children are growing at a rapid rate. This means their requirement for nutrients is extremely high. We would never want to put a child on a diet, as restrictive diets can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Instead, provide your child with healthy foods and let them eat as much as they want. Most importantly, enjoy the experience with them.