Establishing healthy eating habits in childhood is crucial for proper growth and development, not to mention fending off obesity and disease later in life. As a parent, you play an instrumental role in influencing your children’s nutrition choices. While it’s not always easy getting kids to eat well, there are several proven strategies you can try to encourage better eating behaviors.
Lead By Example At Mealtimes
As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. If you want your kids to eat healthy, they need to see you practicing what you preach at family mealtimes. Model the eating habits you want your children to develop:
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins yourself within meals and snacks.
- Avoid overindulging in junk food or sugary treats in front of your kids.
- Show enjoyment of wholesome foods through your comments and reactions.
- Teach mindful eating by paying attention to your own fullness cues.
- Express excitement about trying new summer meals for kids
Kids naturally want to imitate their parents. So, use mealtimes to showcase the healthy eating behavior you want to pass on.
Get Kids Involved In Meal Planning And Cooking
When kids help plan and prepare meals, they feel a sense of pride and are more excited to eat the healthy fruits of their labor. Depending on age, get your children involved by:
- Taking them grocery shopping and letting them pick out a new produce item to try.
- Let them stir, shake, mash, and help dump ingredients into recipes.
- Teaching basic knife skills and how to safely operate appliances.
- Ask their opinions on which lean protein or veggie side to have with meals.
- Allowing them to invent their own healthy recipes with your supervision.
Hands-on participation gives kids a sense of ownership over what goes on their plate. And preparing food together builds valuable skills and bonding time.
Rethink How You Restrict Foods
It’s common for parents to completely restrict treats or set rigid “clean plate” rules around vegetables. But these tactics often backfire, causing kids to obsess over the restricted items or resent the enforced foods. Rethink your approach:
- Allow occasional treats in moderation, teaching balance instead of prohibition.
- Don’t force kids to sit at the table until vegetables are finished, which can breed resentment.
- Focus on adding more of the good instead of eliminating foods completely.
- Involve kids in choosing veggies to try rather than enforcing what’s served.
The goal is to develop internal motivation for healthier eating, not obedience to strict parental rules. Be flexible and focus on positive reinforcement.
Encourage Mindful Eating Habits
Mindful eating habits help kids tune in to signals of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction that guide smart nutrition choices. Teach them to:
- Notice flavors, textures, and aromas of foods through all five senses.
- Recognize stomach cues of hunger and fullness.
- Slow down eating and chew thoroughly rather than rush.
- Appreciate where foods come from, like gardens, farms, or stores.
- Focus on eating without distractions like electronics or toys at the table.
These habits help prevent overeating or emotional eating down the road. Kids discover eating wholesome foods feels good through mindful attention.
Find Fun Physical Activities Your Child Enjoys
Physical activity provides so many benefits, but many kids see it as a chore versus fun. Help them find physical pastimes they genuinely enjoy such as:
- Playing active video game systems like Nintendo Wii Fit or Xbox Kinect.
- Joining a youth swim team, dance class, or gymnastics program.
- Trying out different sports to find one that feels like play versus work.
- Playing physically active games as a family, from tag to trampoline competitions.
- Going on regular after-dinner walks or bike rides together.
An active lifestyle motivates kids to fuel their bodies with nutritious foods. And finding activities they like prevents exercise from feeling like punishment.
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