Strategies for Parents to Teach Kids Healthy Eating Habits
Children are usually picky eaters. In a meta-analysis study, some reasons children were picky eaters include the following: pressure to eat, children’s personality, and parental practices, especially maternal influence. But being picky with food negatively affects children. They might experience nutrition deficiencies, constipation, and developmental difficulties, among others. Thus, parents must promote healthy eating habits for their children early on.
The pandemic may be a great time to start doing this. Since kids are supposed to stay at home, parents can easily check and control their children’s food intake. Here are some ways for parents to help children develop healthy eating habits:
Prepare Balanced Meals
Needless to say, a balanced diet is crucial to keep kids healthy. In a day, children must eat the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and dairy.
Eat Together as a Family
Families should eat together to encourage children to adopt healthy eating habits. When everyone is at a single table for a meal, children are more likely to consume fruits and vegetables.
Eating too fast can cause indigestion and is linked to obesity and overweight. Parents can train their children to eat slowly when they eat together as a family. Family members often engage in conversations while eating, which will naturally make kids slow down.
Be a Role Model
Children mimic what people around them do. So to teach kids to eat healthily, parents must do it too. Parents can even show positive reactions after each bite of their healthy meal to demonstrate that the food is good, which will encourage children to follow suit. And if there are specific foods that children should avoid, parents should do so too.
Engage Children in the Kitchen
Parents can encourage children to eat healthily by making them part of the cooking process. Kids can do simple tasks like collecting ingredients from the fridge, washing vegetables, and mixing ingredients. Parents can even ask kids to make decisions while cooking, such as letting them choose which vegetables to chop first, where to put the ingredients, and so on.
Kids may become more excited to eat since they helped prepare the food. Giving them decision-making tasks can also show that, to some extent, they can choose what they eat.
Follow a Snack Schedule
Children often eat snacks while watching TV or playing games. They mindlessly eat and don’t have a clear signal when to stop. This can lead to overeating. And certain snacks like chewy candies, sour candies, and other sweets can easily damage children’s teeth.
Thus, parents need to provide healthy snacks, ideally those recommended by pediatric dentists and doctors. Some examples are fresh and dried fruits, yogurt, and cereals. These snacks should be given on a schedule. It can train children to control their cravings and avoid overeating.
Avoid Using Food as a Reward
When children reach a milestone or do a good deed, they often get rewarded. And parents often use food, if not toys, as rewards. However, this can do more damage. Rewarding them with chocolates, cookies, and soda might result in children overeating these unhealthy foods.
Using food as a reward might also send the wrong message to children. If they’re supposed to avoid foods that aren’t good for their body, why are those foods given to them as rewards? If they are “rewards,” children will think that these foods are good for them.
Parents are responsible for keeping their children healthy. For parents with kids that are picky eaters, it may be difficult at first. But in time, through the use of several strategies discussed, parents can successfully instill healthy eating habits in children.