Obesity is on the rise in America, particularly in young children. This is largely due to many families preparing processed, boxed meals for the sake of ease. However, what you make up for in the time it takes to prepare meals, you may very well lose in the health of your family. While a lack of whole, nutritious and fresh foods is bad for adult diets, it’s even worse for children since their diets build the foundation for their future health and eating habits. Learning to eat clean at a young age can have lasting effects.
If you’re like many parents, you may have a difficult time getting your kids on board with eating healthier foods such as fruits and veggies. But food didn’t always come out of boxes, meaning that children used to eat fresh foods every day. To teach your kids to do the same, try the following suggestions:
- Put your kids’ health before their immediate happiness. What does this mean? If you tell your child that he can’t eat that cupcake until he finishes his dinner and he cries, it may be tempting to simply offer up the cupcake. Don’t do this! Eating a balanced meal should be more important than a fleeting moment of joy that comes from icing and sprinkles.
- Nutrition should take priority when it comes to mealtime. Organic, grass-fed meats, fresh produce and whole grains should make up the majority of your children’s diet. Breakfast cereals, chips and sweets should be consumed sparsely as a treat.
- Explain to your children that healthy foods make their bodies strong and set them up for success. You may be surprised to see how children can be receptive to improving their health through dietary choices. This also rids you of the need to disguise healthy foods.
- Do not give kids special choices at mealtime. If they don’t wish to eat the healthy food you provide, then they can skip the meal. It won’t hurt them and, instead, helps to rid them of picky eating habits.
- Talk to your kids to learn what they like. If they enjoy carrots, but hate broccoli, you can plan meals with carrots so kids will enjoy eating heating meals.
- If you notice your kids taking an interest in meal planning, bring them to the grocery store and let them pick out some foods. They’ll be more likely to eat those foods because of their connection with it.
Include your child in meal preparation, even if it’s a simple task such as stirring ingredients in a mixing bowl or tossing a salad. Children want to feel included in what happens at home. A knowledge of what they’re doing and why can get them excited to eat good, wholesome foods.
- Introduce a variety of healthy foods into your children’s diets. Instead of dipping veggies in ranch dressing, let them try hummus or avocado spread. Make mild salsa, fresh tomato sauces and light salad dressings. The more foods your kids try at a young age, the less picky they’ll likely be as they grow up.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore. Make it educational and fun for children so they want to eat fresh foods more often. Teaching them to eat whole foods at mealtime and limiting processed foods to the occasional treat can set your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits and a better chance for lifelong overall wellness.
What’s your favorite healthy meal to prepare for your family?