Healthy Eating – How get your kids on board!
Teaching kids to eat well, and setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating, can be a daunting task. There are a few key ideas though that, if you can instill them early enough, will help set them on the right course.
The way we understand food
When people have challenges with weight or eating healthier, they often struggle with the way they think of food. Food is not ‘something to do’, it is not something to make us feel better, and it is not always about having fun. You scoff, but think about how many times you, or someone you saw, was giving a child a snack so they had something to distract them, keep them quiet or otherwise occupied.
Instead of thinking about food from these perspectives, think about, and teach kids, about food differently to ensure a lifetime of healthy eating. For instance…. Food is… fuel that we give our bodies so what we eat matters. We benefit the most from food when it is both nutritious and delicious …so it fuels both our body and spirit. Food can be a way to connect and bring people together…more fuel for the soul.
Avoid random eating
One of the biggest challenges busy people – and families – face is deciding what to eat and then finding the time to prepare it. Kids hear parents fussing over not knowing what to eat, opting for take-out or prepared foods because there just isn’t time, and those become the memories of food they take with them.
Instead of falling into this all too easy trap, spending a little time, together, on the weekend perhaps, planning meals for the week, can be an easy way to change the way you all think about food. When you decide ahead what the week’s meals will look like, you have a greater chance that the ingredients you need to ensure your family is eating healthy will be on hand. You also help yourselves by understanding what preparation might be required in advance so you can plan.
Kids can get involved by offering suggestions, and then helping with the preparation, since everyone knows what will be happening.
Think of the way you talk about food
When you’re meal planning, think of the way you talk about food. You can simply name specific meals, or you can talk about foods so kids understand the nutritional value of food and the importance of healthy choices and balanced meals. For instance, instead of deciding to have chicken for dinner one night and leaving it at that, the discussion could start with the protein and then move into the vegetables that might be included, what they contain and why some might be more valuable than others for specific vitamin content.
You also want to discuss options to be sure you add variety. Always opting for corn or carrots, for instance, because you know kids like them, means they’re not getting enough variety in their diets, and that they’re always choosing vegetables that are higher in sugars. Maybe in your meal planning you decide to try one new vegetable a week, or you search out one new recipe using an ingredient you haven’t tried before.
Using a meal plan or having kids chart the foods they eat over the course of a week, can also show them where they are eating well and where they may need to change habits. It also helps you understand where your focus needs to be. Make a game of having everyone in the family track what they eat for a week. Then, sit down and compare for food groups and variety, and discuss where you all might try to improve and create a healthier diet and healthier habits. While day by day you may think you’re eating well, a look at the weekly snapshot may reveal some habits you would much rather change.
Understand where foods come from
When kids understand where foods come from – that real, whole foods come from farms and gardens, and that processed foods come from factories and include all kinds of artificial additives to make sure they last and taste good, they come to their own conclusions about the foods they want to eat. Read ingredient labels; visit a farm or grow your own vegetables. Try an experiment at home using something you bought at a market and something that came out of a can to help kids understand the differences in food quality.
Healthy eating isn’t hard but it does take some thought, perhaps a change in habits, and a base understanding of the ways you think about food.
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