How your child relates to food will affect them for their entire life, so this guest post from Heather is an important one. In a culture where fast, convenient food is everywhere, healthy eating is a conscious choice your child will have to make every day. As a parent, you have the power and responsibility to model, teach, and encourage healthy eating habits for kids. With consistent effort, you can show your kids how to fuel their bodies in a positive way for a lifetime.
The Weight Watchers app controversy
Recently, Weight Watchers released a new app targeted to children. Kurbo is aimed at kids from age 8 to age 17, and has a green light, yellow light, red light system in order to indicate which foods kids should curb and which foods they can consume without worry.
The app has been greatly controversial, with many experts warning that it could be a precursor to eating disorders. With all these apps and societal feedback around, it’s more important than ever that we attempt to instill a healthy relationship with food into our children’s upbringing.
Here are some things you can try to make sure that your kid’s relationship to food is a happy, healthy and balanced one.
Want healthy eating habits for kids? Be their role model
If you’re eating brownies for breakfast, chances are your kids will too. Youngsters watch your every move and mimic your behaviors. That’s how they learn.
So, it shouldn’t surprise you when they mimic your eating habits. Show them what a balanced diet, moderate snacking, and portion control look like by practicing them yourself.
Provide healthy options
Kids will eat whatever is on hand. If they have to choose between an apple and a bag of chips, there’s a good chance they’ll opt for the chips. But if the choice is between an apple or baby carrots, it’s a win-win situation.
You also have to think about convenience, especially when you’re running to games and lessons in the evening. Try pre-packing healthy snacks like popcorn, grapes, or nuts.
Pre-packing lets you keep tabs on nutrition and portion control. It’s not just about what they eat but how much.
Talk about fueling your body
Body image for both genders is constantly under fire. You may not be able to bulletproof your kids to media messages about thin girls and toned boys, but you can foster a healthy relationship with food.
Food is fuel. Talk to your kids about giving the body the right fuel. It provides the building blocks for your body. Establishing food as a source of fuel and not emotional support, a reward, or boredom buster can help plant the seeds of a long-term healthy relationship with food.
More healthy eating habits for kids:
Meal plan as a family
Children can have strong ideas about what they will and will not eat. Give your child some power by asking them to help plan family meals for the week.
You’ll have a chance to talk about different protein sources and eating a rainbow of colors. You can even sneak in some budget talk too.
Use the local paper to look for healthy foods that are on sale and plan your menu around them. Give your child a voice in choosing meals for the week so they’re excited to eat good food.
Teach cooking skills
Part of learning to eat responsibly is learning how to cook. Preschoolers are coordinated enough to wash potatoes, tear lettuce, or add croutons to a salad.
Meanwhile, older children can peel, stir, and cook alongside you. Spend an afternoon together making healthy freezer meals that you can warm up in the pressure cooker later. Or teach your child how to can peaches or make homemade salsa.
You’ll find the most success by teaching him how to make foods he loves. For example, if pasta is their favorite, then find a healthy sauce recipe or make your own whole wheat noodles.
Healthy eating habits for kids: Create a food schedule
The human body works on a predictable timetable. Children need to eat every three to four hours.
Try to have your meals at around the same times every day. Keep them evenly spaced too. That will prevent your child from becoming overly hungry and ignoring their “full” signal.
Don’t ban treats
The forbidden can be more tempting the harder it is to get. Having a few treats on hand even when on the small is another way to teach your kids about moderation.
Treats are a sometimes food so only eat them sometimes. A child that’s not allowed to have any sweets may be tempted to overdo it once they get the opportunity.
Leave judgement outside
Food battles can sometimes be inevitable, but they’re not helpful. Don’t nitpick your child on what he eats and when he eats it.
Instead, make healthy offerings, model good choices, but let him eat his food without someone watching over his shoulder. Too much pushing can cause your child to push back.
A healthy relationship with food will follow your child for his entire life. Your example and the kind of food you keep in your house will help him make good choices.
As your children get more independent, they’ll fall back on your example as they’re making food choices on their own. And then they can pass those great habits onto their own kids one day.
About today’s writer
Heather Viera is a lifestyle expert and researcher for FamilyLivingToday.com. She is dedicated to achieving a balanced lifestyle, even with two small children and a full-time career. In the little free time she has, she enjoys hiking with her partner and taking her dog to the beach.