Have kids? READ THIS! It's a little advice packet I made up to help get kids involved with their food in order to build healthy eating habits for life.
Be a strong role model.
Children learn from their environment. It is impossible to expect your child to make healthy decisions if the family is unable to exhibit a positive influence. Parents often make the mistake of saying things such as " do as I say, not as I do."
Start out making small steps toward creating a healthier environment and you will notice the child will begin to follow along. Here are some ideas on steps you can begin to implement immediately:
1. Start out by changing your own diet. When the child sees that you are eating healthy snacks, he/she will be more likely to want the same. Make sure you also take steps to educate yourself to understand what your child's nutritional needs really are.
2. Make sure the entire family exhibits a positive image. If other family members are eating unhealthy foods such as cookies and candies in front of small children, they too will want to eat them. Toddlers do not understand when something is good for them and when it is not.
3. Make healthy choices with your child. Your child will be more likely to want to eat when you eat, or want to exercise when you do. This will also create a more trusting relationship, which will allow you to make even bigger lifestyle changes for your child to follow.
Get toddlers involved in food planning and preparation.
When children feel that they are a part of something, they will be more likely to want to stay involved in the activities. Meal time should also be family time, even if you can only devote enough time for one meal per day. Choose a time when the entire family is home and make sure everyone gets involved.
1. Look for children's cookbooks. Most booksellers provide cookbooks geared towards children, which usually provide features such as coloring pages and detailed illustrations. Allow your child to choose a meal to make for the entire family. If they picked out the meal for the entire family, you can be almost positive that they will want to eat it as well.
2. Take your child to market. Farmer's markets and even grocery stores can be fun and exciting for children when they are involved in making purchasing decisions. Allow your child to pick out certain items such as fruit and vegetables. Children will be more likely to eat a vegetable that they picked out on their own, rather than a vegetable picked for them.
3. Let your child help with meal preparation. There are many tasks that even toddlers can help with when preparing meals. They can wash fruits and vegetables, snap the ends of off green beans, and help to mix things. Make sure the tasks are appropriate to your child's abilities. You may even consider purchasing a child-sized kitchen set that they can use to help prepare real food. Children will be excited to see the entire family enjoying a meal that they helped to create.
4. Start a garden. Starting a small garden indoors or out, will not only teach children where their food comes from, but they will also be excited to try foods that they have watched grow from seeds. To get even more involved try composting! Your child will be excited to feed the worms left over scraps and be amazed when they transform it into valuable soil for their gardens to grow. If a garden space is not available, take children to farmer's markets where they can pick fruits and vegetables right from the fields.
5. Don't forget to incorporate activity. Once your child begins to be involved with meal preparation and gardening, their activity level will probably increase as well. They will use much more energy in preparing meals and going to market than they would if they were just sitting around waiting for dinner to be ready. Children will also have much more energy when consuming a balanced diet, therefore they will be more likely to get more activity on their own.
Praise child for eating well.
When your child begins to make healthy choices on his/her own, use positive reinforcement. When they realize they are doing something that is not only healthy for them, but making you happy as well, they will be more likely to continue making healthy decisions. Rewards should be things that reinforce healthy habits such as a trip to the market, a new cookbook, or even a treat such as a fresh fruit platter. Don't forget, that it is the healthy choices that are reinforced that will help to create life-long eating habits for your child.
+Remember, children will ultimately make the biggest imact on the future of our planet, let's give them a push in the right direction!