Eating nutritious food in the right portions is essential to good health and wellbeing, but getting kids to eat that way is an uphill battle for most parents. No matter how difficult, teaching kids about nutrition and healthy food is essential for making the right food choices later in life. You can build healthy eating habits over time, so here are some helpful ways to get your kids excited about eating right.
7 Ways to Teach Kids About Nutrition and Healthy Food Choices
1. Be Creative in Introducing Healthy Foods
Be creative when introducing healthful foodstuff to your children, especially if they are hesitant to try new types of food. It can be as simple as cutting fruits and vegetables into different shapes and arranging them into a fun pattern on a plate. Or, if you want to introduce fresh seafood into their diet, you can start with the Little Mermaid story or any similar story related to the sea. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make your children eat healthy food with a bit of creativity.
2. Explain Things in Age-Appropriate Terms
Parents know children need a diet full of protein, vegetables, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. These things are easy for adults to understand. But how do you explain all these in a way that a child will understand? Younger children do well with simple explanations that are easy to remember. Perhaps you can tell them that pasta and bread help them play longer. Maybe you can remind them to eat foods in the rainbow’s color to get their daily dose of vitamins and minerals.
To make it easier, you can choose to watch a cartoon infographic that’s made especially for children. If you have an older child, you want to explain things in ways they can relate to in their everyday routine. For instance, the next time you offer them a bowl of fruit, tell them that fruit provides the vitamins and minerals their body needs to help ward off colds and viruses, so they can keep doing the things they want to do.
3. Use Monkey See, Monkey Do
Children learn through observing and imitating others, and their parents are the first ones they follow. So as a parent, make sure you can ‘walk the talk’ by making balanced food choices. You can start by showing your children how a healthy plate looks — fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with lean protein and grains.
4. Avoid “Good Food” vs. “Bad Food.”
Nowadays, everything has a label, food included. Classifying what we eat as “good food” or “bad food” has become the norm. But if you want your kids to establish a healthy relationship with food, you should try to change the way you classify food. Labeling food as “good” or “bad” may make children feel that way when they eat those foods, setting the tone on how they view meals later in life.
Also, remember that the lure of anything “bad,” food included, is a draw for children, plus they overeat these items whenever they get the chance. Kids need to learn that every type of food has a place in their diet and that food is neither “good” nor “bad.” Perhaps you can find the time to introduce them to the food pyramid. Then you can explain which types of foods they should eat more and which ones they should eat in smaller amounts.
5. Follow Portion Control
Most often, it’s not just the type of food you eat that matters, but also how much. Children are never too young to learn how much of each food they should eat. Protein should be the size of their palm, and fats like mayonnaise should be the size of the tip of the thumb.
6. Encourage Healthy Snacks
Teaching your children to make healthy choices extends beyond breakfast, lunch, and dinner to snack time. School and daycare are places where you cannot monitor what your children eat, so help your child make good food choices by packing their bags with healthy snacks. Some examples are yogurt, carrot sticks, cheese, and apples with peanut butter, to name a few. Occasionally, include a small treat. Well-balanced snack options can help your children make healthy food choices down the road.
7. Be Consistent and Realistic
As the saying goes, they did not build Rome in a day. The same applies to teaching your children good eating habits. Be consistent in offering them healthy choices, and slowly, you will see them develop those habits and take the practices with them as they grow. There will be days when eating healthy is not always possible, and that’s okay. Give yourself and your children some leeway, and try to get back to your routine as soon as your situation allows.
Making healthy food choices is a habit and a choice built over time. It’s never too early to teach your child about nutrition and eating the right foods, and there is no better time to start than now. Happy, healthy eating!