It is not enough that parents raise kids who enjoy exercising or staying active. It is also vital that they maintain a healthy diet. We live in a world of processed and prepackaged food and raising kids with healthy eating habits is becoming more challenging by the day.
What parents need to remember is that you don't need to have a nutrition degree to raise healthy kids. There are always new food fad coming out or parents can use the MyPlate food guide for them to understand what it means to eat healthy. Following some basic guidelines can help any parent who wants to encourage their kids to eat right and maintain a healthy diet.
- Take control. Adults should be in charge when deciding which food to buy and when to serve them. Kids will eat what's available in the cupboard or fridge at home. Remember to schedule regular meal and snack times.
- "Clean-plate" club no more. Kids will stop eating when they feel they've had enough. Overeating is less likely to happen when kids notice and respond to feelings of fullness.
- The earlier, the better. Babies already start having likes and dislikes which means food preferences are developed early in life so variety is the key. Serve a new food a few different times for a child to accept it. Offer a few bites but don't force a child to eat. With older kids, ask them to try one bite.
- Be inventive. There is no need to rely on the basic kid's menu just to get by. Kids have an adventurous spirit so let them try new foods when eating out. When at home, schedule a taco night with cubed sweet potato and squash and toppings from peppers and radishes to avocado and Greek yogurt.
- Go natural. Replace unhealthy sugared and sugar-free soda with a 100% fresh fruit juice. Water and milk are still the best drinks for kids so make sure they are available. For other options, blend fresh fruit juice with low-fat yogurt for a healthy smoothie.
- Food is not love. Showing affection and rewarding kids with hugs, praise, and attention instead of food treats will prevent them from using food to cope with stress or other emotions. Kids will not turn to food to make themselves feel better and instead continue to practice mindful eating.
- Lead by example. Be a role model and eat healthy yourself. Be open about why you choose nutritious snacks or take regular exercise. Try to set the best example possible by making time to eat at the table and not skipping meals.