Raising Healthy Eaters
As a parent, you want to teach your children lifelong healthy eating habits so they will thrive physically, emotionally, and socially. The key is Authoritative Parenting, whereby you set clear and firm guidelines while giving your children the tools and opportunity to make their own good choices. Being too strict or too permissive can create disordered eating and long term struggles with food and body image. Teach your children to eat well and enjoy a positive relationship with food.
Create good habits in the early years.
When young children are fed healthy foods from an early age, they acquire a taste and memory of these flavors. You have complete control over the food of young eaters and a unique opportunity to influence their future dietary patterns. So, instead of juice, white bread, and ice cream, give your children water, sprouted whole grain bread, and fresh or frozen fruit.
Teach kids to cook.
Encourage children to participate in age appropriate cooking activities. Younger children can add pre-measured ingredients, mix with their hands, and (with adult supervision) use a blender or Cuisinart. Older children can plan and prepare dishes or whole meals. The more involved they are in food preparation the more interested they will be in eating it. Cooking is a survival skill. Teach them the basics.
Stock up on healthy snack options.
You will not have to battle with your children over junk food when there is no junk food in the house. Stock up on a variety of healthy snack foods that your kids can help themselves to when they come home from school. This gives them freedom to choose while you maintain oversight.
Be sneaky & creative.
Find ways to sneak in nutrient-dense foods. For example, add avocado, cashews, and spinach to smoothies or finely chopped vegetables to soup or pasta sauce. Also, create fun names for foods like "butter trees" for broccoli with butter or "treasure pods" for sugar snap peas.
"Clean your plate" is out of date.
Requiring children to finish all the food on their plate, teaches them to override their natural sense of fullness, which can become deeply ingrained and lead to overeating in adulthood. Instead, encourage your kids to eat some of each food on their plate and make it clear that after dinner the kitchen is closed. Likewise, the kitchen should be closed to snacking one hour before dinner so everyone comes to the table ready to eat.
Balance is essential. Guide your children to eat healthy most of the time, but allow them to indulge occasionally. Take your kids out for a scoop of ice cream or catch up over a treat at your local bakery. Encourage them to enjoy and savor the experience. This is far better than buying a tub of ice cream or a box of cookies for your house because you are limiting the treat to a single serving and you are spending special time together.
Be a positive role model.
Your children are always watching you and mirroring your habits. Whether you obsess about calories, consume high amounts of processed and packaged foods, eat in front of your computer, or constantly talk about body image, they will take notice. Creating healthy eating habits for yourself is essential for teaching your children to do the same.