Teaching your children about good healthy eating habits might be one of the most important things you do as a parent. 

As they grow, healthy foods stabilize your children’s energy, sharpen their minds, and even out their moods.  If taught properly, your child will grow into an adult with a healthy, normal relationship with food.  Neglect this teaching and you could be setting your child up for a lifetime struggle with an eating disorder or obesity. 

healthy eatingMany parents acknowledge the benefits of healthy eating. 

However, getting your children to buy into the idea can be challenging!  Instead of waging war against your youngster at every meal, enjoy healthy, nutritious foods without a fight.  It is possible!  And we’ll tell you how. 

How to be a Good Example

Children have a strong impulse to imitate.  Therefore, it is very important to act as a role model for healthy eating habits.  Don’t expect your child to quietly munch on an apple while you inhale a bag of potato chips!

  • Schedule family meals.  Children will appreciate the comfort and routine associated with this suggestion.  Your youngsters will benefit from knowing the entire family will sit down to share a meal at the same time each day.  At the very least, gather everyone for dinner.  As an added bonus, share a healthy breakfast together before going your separate ways.
  • Eat at home.  Save dining out at restaurants for special occasions.  When eating out, people tend to eat more than they would at home.  Studies show this is a result of the variety of options available.  Plus, restaurants tend to load their meals with extra salt, sugar, and fat.
  • Encourage your children to be involved in the food preparation.  Ask for help at the grocery store.  Let them chose the items for their lunch box.  Invite them to assist with meal preparations.  These are all prime times to talk about nutrition.
  • Always have plenty of healthy snack options available.  Instead of stocking up on empty-calorie foods, opt for nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 
  • Choose healthy beverages (milk, 100% juice, and water) over other alternatives (soda, coffee, and sugary drinks).
  • Never insist your child clean his or her plate.  This will encourage an unhealthy view of food.
  • Never use food as a reward or bribe.
  • Never withhold food as a punishment. 

How to Get Picky Eaters to Try New Foods

For young children, being selective of the foods they eat is a natural way to exert control over their environment and express concern about trusting the unfamiliar.  Studies show that a child usually has to experience a food 8-10 times before it is accepted by a discriminating palate.  In the meantime, there are several ways parents can encourage a child to try – and enjoy – new foods.  

  • Introduce new foods when the child is rested and hungry.
  • Only introduce one new food at a time.
  • Try cutting the new food item into an unusual shape.
  • Offer the new food alongside a favorite food item.
  • Be a good example and eat the food yourself.
  • Encourage the child to help you prepare the new food item.
  • Limit the availability of beverages since a picky eater will try to fill up on liquids instead of food.
  • Only allow two snacks per day. 

How to Encourage Your Child to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

For some reason, fruits and vegetables have gotten a bad rap.  Perhaps children know these foods are good for them so they naturally rebel against them!  If your child isn’t interested in eating their fruits and veggies, try these tips:

  • Create food collages.
    • Make a fruit smiley face in a bowl of whole grain cereal; use banana slices for eyes, a raisin for the nose, and an apple slice for the mouth.
    • Design a landscape scene; use broccoli for trees, cauliflower for clouds, and squash for the sun.  Then add flowers with carrots and celery.
  • Make frozen fruit kabobs.
  • Take your child to a farmer’s market and let him or her choose various foods.
  • Make fruit smoothies.
  • Add fruits and vegetables to baked goods. Try banana bread, blueberry pancakes, date bars, zucchini bread, corn muffins, and carrot cake. 

How to Limit Sugar Intake

The American Heart Association recommends children eat less than 3 teaspoons of sugar a day.  Cutting down on candy and cookies is a good place to start; however, there are lots of other sugary foods to be aware of.  Here are some things to consider when limiting sugar consumption.

  • One can of soda usually has at least three times the recommended daily sugar intake. 
  • Ketchup and frozen dinners are usually high in sugar.
  • If you ban sweets entirely, you’ll probably set the stage for unhealthy cravings and overindulgences.
  • Many recipes taste just as good without the sugar.  Try eliminating it entirely, reducing the amount, or substituting a healthy alternative (applesauce and fruit juice sometimes work). 

How to Limit Salt Intake

Children under 8-years old should have less than a teaspoon of salt per day. 

  • To reduce salt intake, choose fresh vegetables over canned.
  • Cut back on salty snacks like potato chips, nuts, and pretzels.
  • When alternatives are available, opt for low-salt or reduced-sodium food items. 

How to Entice Junk Food Addicts with Healthier Alternatives

If your child loves all things unhealthy, try to switch to a similar, yet healthier, alternative.  Try making the following changes:

  • Baked fries for French fries
  • Frozen yogurt, fresh fruit smoothies, or sorbet for ice cream
  • Grilled or baked chicken for fried chicken
  • English muffins or bagels for donuts and pastries
  • Graham crackers, fig bars, or vanilla wafers for cookies
  • Unbuttered popcorn, baked potato chips or soy crisps for potato chips 

It may seem impossible now, but healthy eating is possible – no matter what the age of your youngster. 

Use these tips to bring healthier options to your child each day. 

Guest author Jessica Velasco struggled to lose weight for years.  She used various weight loss products from Trim Nutrition and finally reached her target weight.  Now, Jessica is determined to help her family learn healthy eating habits and avoid the nutrition pitfalls that lead to her weight gain.

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