I’m not a parent, but, as someone who was a “kid” not too long ago, I know a thing or two about kids’ eating habits. As an adult, I’d like to think that I lead a generally healthy lifestyle. However, while growing up, I was all too familiar with just about any junk food you can think of. Luckily, I’ve been able to break most of my bad eating habits from childhood, but, unfortunately, poor eating habits while young tend to turn into poor eating habits for life.
I’d recommend breaking bad eating habits before you even make them. When you don’t break ‘em before you make ‘em, kids will get a taste for blood (or chips, cookies, and soda), and there may not be a chance to turn back the clock after that (convincing a child that broccoli tastes better than French fries is difficult!). For kids to develop healthy eating habits, you’ll have to encourage such habits, and lead by example. If you want your family to maintain healthy weights and lifestyles, I have five tips you can share that’ll help turn that desire into reality.
- Make Healthy Snacks: Healthy snacks are essential to healthy lifestyles. Duh, right? Not so fast. Some parents, including mine, are under the impression that chips and cookies are daily snack staples, rather than occasional treats. Offering your children fresh fruits and raw veggies is a much healthier, leaner way to satiate their hunger. Be a good role model!
- Choose Water: I didn’t drink water often, as a child. It sounds really bad because it is. There was always soda on hand, and that’s why I developed such a taste for the sugary beverage. Even fruit juices (we always had apple and/or grape) are full of natural sugars and calories. If you must, water down fruit juices, and let sodas be special treats. At zero calories, inexpensive water truly quenches thirst, and may keep those cavities at bay. Plus, drinking plenty of water hydrates, and makes people less likely to overeat at meals. Try adding some fresh fruit to the water for a fun treat!
- Use Portion Control: Unless your kids are insanely active, they probably shouldn’t be eating as much as adults. Encourage children to eat their portions slowly. After waiting a while, if they’re still hungry, allow small, second servings. Don’t praise children who lick their plates clean, or force them to, because it can lead to lifelong overeating patterns.
- Include Kids: Get your kids involved by grocery shopping and cooking with them. Allowing them to have a say in what they’ll be eating for dinner will get them excited about eating nutritious foods. Also, a kid who helps prepare meals will be more likely, and willing, to try a variety of foods that most kids wouldn’t dare.
- Pack Lunch: All of my friends always wanted my lunch in elementary school. If my parents didn’t have time to pack my lunch, they’d drop off fast food for me later. When I did have a packed lunch, Lunchables, Doritos, and Ho-Hos were frequently present. Pack your kids (and your own) lunch with whole-grain sandwiches, fruits, and veggies. Letting them grab lunch at school leaves you helpless. Who knows what’s in those daily specials? Take control by providing your children with yummy, healthy foods that’ll give them enough energy to thrive in school.