We are what we eat, so if you eat junk food, you feel like junk food, right?
Sadly, many kids these days are accustomed to a diet full of highly processed foods and ready meals packed with sugar and salt. The earlier you start helping your kids to enjoy eating whole foods , the better. Here are some strategies and tips that will help you encourage healthy eating habits.
Talk about healthy food benefits
You can help your kids better understand the importance of the right food choices. Talk to them about the importance of a balanced diet and how healthy eating will benefit them. Explain how proper nutrition impacts their performance in everyday life activities at school, at home and while practising sports or learning. You can compare the food to fuel and ensure they understand which products are better for them and why. Get the kids thinking about real food — and where it comes from.
Introduce healthy options and limit exposure to unhealthy food
Bring more veggies, fruits, and whole foods to your diet and kitchen. Introduce new healthy alternatives to products you used to consume frequently for the entire family. Replace the white bread with whole grain bread or sprouted bread, and regular pasta with whole grain pasta. Introduce your kids to healthy ingredients while helping them enjoy the foods they know and love. Try to find your family's favourite staples that will contain less sugar, salt and saturated fat. Instead of frying, you can bake in the oven for a lighter version of some popular dishes. If your kids like pizza, you don't have to resign from eating it; just opt for pizza with whole grain flour and more vegetables.
Avoid storing junk food at home and stop buying it. If you give your kids unhealthy food at times, they may think it's a special treat, and this way, they will associate it with something good (not the right way).
Introduce healthy snacks
If your kids cannot live without snacks, just show them how to snack smarter. Introduce them to a variety of fresh and dried fruits like apples, bananas, apricots and veggies like carrots or cherry tomatoes that can be a healthy snack option. Have a cupboard filled with healthy snacks like nuts, seeds and dried fruits.
Get rid of carb-heavy snacks and sweets. By introducing better alternatives, you can help them create a healthy snacking habit.
Have regular meals and offer choices
Serve a variety of healthy foods at home and constantly introduce new flavours and products. Make it possible for the kids to have more healthy food choices near them. If you give them a range of choices, they will easily find something they really like. You can combine the "disliked" food with the "liked" food. Introduce kids to world cuisines and let them discover new flavours so they are not afraid of trying new and different foods.
Involve kids in the preparation of the meals
There's no better way to get kids engaged with where their food comes from than getting them involved in the kitchen.
Take your kids shopping and decide together which healthy products you will buy. Teach your kids which ingredients are better. Visit a local farmer's market so the kids can see the variety of fresh produce available.
Include your kids in food preparation and cooking methods. Whether you make a meal or bake a cake, invite your kids to help you. Make them feel involved in food prep by helping stir the soup, cleaning the veggies, adding salt, and preparing herbs and seasonings. There are many safe activities that kids can help you with. Get them an apron, some cooking utensils, or a kids' cooking book so they feel more engaged. They will love to make cookies with you and decorate them (and eat them later!). You can have a lot of fun making pizza together, choosing the healthiest ingredients and creating new flavours. There is a chance kids will like the food they made themselves.
Always let them make their own plates. This way, they will learn how to cook, and they will be confident about their healthy food choices.
Be a role model, get creative and support good choices
Healthy eating habits are led by example. It won't work if you force your kids to eat healthy if you don't do it yourself. So be the real role model for your kids and eat healthy yourself. It has to start with you. Take it slowly, and don't force it. Don't trick the kids and disguise the food - this will never work. Give small portions and praise your child for eating, even if they only eat a little. Do everything you can to avoid battles over food and keep the peace by the table. Healthy food doesn't have to be boring and taste like cardboard. Get creative with food and prepare delicious, colourful and full of flavour meals. Have fun with food and always support good choices. Get the kids connected to what they eat.