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Raising Children with Healthy Eating Habits

March 9, 2018 | Blog

How to encourage your picky eater to incorporate healthy food options into their diet

By Marissa Davis, Project Director, Trenton YMCA and NJPHK-Trenton

If you think you’re the only parent with fussy eaters at home, think again! It can be extremely tough getting kids to choose healthy options. Forcing these foods sometimes result in tantrums and meltdowns that may make mom or dad want to resort to junk food favorites, just to keep the peace.

While it is difficult, it’s also important for parents to monitor what their children put into their bodies, as it sets the groundwork for their lifelong wellness and health. Here are five simple ways to incorporate healthy food options into your child’s diet.

1. Offer Only Healthy Options

Your kids don’t tell you what time they’d like to go to bed, so why allow them to dictate what they eat. Adults go grocery shopping, purchase the food, prepare it, and ultimately have the final say in what meals are offered. Establish parental authority, and don’t prepare separate meals, or take requests from your children. Commit to cooking a variety throughout the week, so your children have the opportunity to be exposed to several healthy food options.

2. Get Them Involved In The Process

Cooking with kids can build confidence and instills a sense of pride when they’re able to do something themselves. Turn cooking into an ‘experiment” while you teach them valuable safety skills, as well as how to measure, and about different ingredients and seasonings. It’s not always about the amazing meal you create, but rather take this time to engage with your children and create lasting memories in the kitchen.

3. Stop Forcing Food

Requesting your child clean his or her plate may not be the best way to get children to eat healthy. The “one more bite” idea may seem harmless but coercing your child to eat food they don’t like or aren’t hungry for has long term effects. Children have an internal sensor which regulates their body and sends signals to the brain to signify hunger or fullness. When we ask our kids to ignore that feeling, we are essentially changing their natural body cues, which could cause overeating. We want our children to eat to live, not live to eat. Try placing one of your child’s favorites (apple slices) on a plate next to a small portion of something new you’d like them to try. Don’t make a big deal if they don’t eat it the first time, it’ll likely take three or more times for them to expand their palate.

4. Talk About Why Healthy Eating Is Important

Discuss what healthy foods look like, and explain why they are so beneficial and nourishing to our bodies. Also, make sure you let them know the negative impact of non-nutritious foods on the body. Start a vegetable garden. Family gardening is rewarding, and it also teaches your children where their food comes from.

5. Be A Role Model

You are the biggest influence on your child’s health and wellness. Who better to show them how it’s done than you? Lead by example, by putting the same meals, snacks, and drinks into your body that you put into your child’s body. If you are eating a specific new food, your kids will notice, and are more likely to want to taste it. Although snacking on raw veggies may not excite you as much as a candy bar, your kids are watching intently to see your reaction. Remember to smile and enjoy!

Teaching your child healthy eating habits is no easy task, but if you do your best to get involved in their eating habits, you’ll instill values that they will use on their own forever.



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