There are several ways to encourage good eating habits in children, which will mean they will grow up with a healthy attitude towards food. Trying new foods and ensuring that children get the best nutrients from a range of foods can be tricky, and sometimes meals times can be a battlefield. There are, however, some simple ways to encourage good eating habits, which will help ensure they can have a healthy attitude towards food for life.
1. Good Examples
Setting a good example is so important and is one of the ways to encourage good eating habits. Eating with your children and having them witness your positive attitude to food will help instill the same attitudes in them. After all, they look up to you for guidance! Eat the same healthy dishes rather than dishing up a separate plate for you. For example, if you skip breakfast, chances are your children will see this as something they don't need to do either.
2. Snack Right
With so many snacks and sugary cereals directly marketed at the kids, this can be very difficult and we have all witnessed pester power in the supermarket at one time or another. However, encouraging healthy snacking is also important. Keep a plentiful supply of fruit, raw vegetable sticks and cheese slices on hand so that they can eat right between meals.
There's the age old 'finish your plate' myth, which I don't actually agree with. I think that when you're full, you should simply stop eating. Children should follow their natural appetites too. Allowing children to try different fruits and vegetables and to appreciate the shape and texture of them is also important. Of course, when you first introduce what to you looks like a delicious plate of spinach or sprouts, chances are they're going to turn their noses up in disgust. Try to introduce new foods at the beginning of meal times when they're hungry and more likely to give their taste buds a chance. And don't fret if they hate the new food you're trying to introduce, just try again in a few days or try mixing vegetables into other meals, like their favourite pasta sauce.
4. Helping Hands
Getting children to help in food preparation is also a great way to get them interested in the kitchen and all it has to offer. It's also a great way to teach them that food doesn't come from a hole in the wall, as drive-thrus would have them believe! Get them to help you prepare healthy meals by arranging foods on the plate, measuring and stirring.
5. Sinful Sugar
Children wont miss sugar if you don't add unnecessary amounts to everything. Try not to encourage a sweet tooth and chances are, children won't miss it. Of course, you can't be with them twenty four hours a day and when they're at school, chances are they may be tempted by the Sugar Pushers. But you can inform them about healthy snacking and the dangers of tooth decay if they consume too much sugar.
6. Avoid Lectures
It's tempting to lecture the kiddies about the starving millions and the fact that when you grew up you lived on cheese and bread to try and persuade them to eat more. However, this is unhelpful and will just encourage them to equate stress and lectures with meal times. It should be a time of happiness and enjoyment.
Ok, so this isn't strictly to do with eating habits but it's an essential which links to diet, and with obesity being a global epidemic, I couldn't help but surreptitiously slip in something about exercise and its importance. Children are leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles with the advent of computer games. Also, the climate of fear sometimes created by people scaremongering and preventing children from playing outside means that getting exercise in the great outdoors is difficult for some. Encourage outdoor activities and games wherever possible so that they can enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle from the beginning.
Hopefully, these tips will help ensure that meal times are not a battlefield and your cherubs can grow up with a healthy attitude towards food. Does anyone else have any hints and tips for encouraging healthy eating in children?