Many of us learn to eat healthily later in life. We learn the importance of getting our vegetables and fruits on a daily basis and why we need to put ourselves first.
Most of the time we wish that we learnt it all at a younger age. We wish that we’d taken the time to make healthier choices when we were younger so we would have found it easier as adults. Staying within a healthy weight range would have been easier had we just started doing the right things when we were younger.
While we can’t turn the clocks back, we can help our own children. There are steps that we can take to make sure they eat healthier and learn all about good diets for a better lifestyle.
Of course, the idea of eating healthier isn’t fun. This is why we didn’t do it when we were younger! Children want to binge on sweeties. They want to have pancakes for breakfast and would love to eat chocolate on a daily basis.
So, we need to find ways to make healthy eating fun and exciting. We want to help children learn just what it means to put our health and fitness levels first.
There’s no need to panic because I’m right here to help you with this task. Here are all the tips you need to teach your children to eat healthier.
Start By Making Food Fun From the Beginning
Healthy food is full of bright colours, which is great for young kids. They will want to try yellow and orange bell peppers and eat all those coloured fruits and vegetables available in the grocery store. These bright colours look entertaining and fun. It’s only as they get older that they realise that the bright colours usually mean healthy food.
Rather than trying to force children to eat the stuff that’s good for them, you need to make the food as fun as possible. It’s important not to make it clear that these items have to eat, but make it so that children want to eat the healthier options.
When they’re young, start by making shapes and patterns out of the fruits and vegetables. You can do smiley faces, animals, and even just shapes they’re learning at school. Give them something different each day, and they’ll realise that the food isn’t as boring as they initially believed.
As they get older, they’ll overlook the idea of something being healthy.They will just see it as the norm and barely bat an eyelid.
Don’t Ban Anything From the House
We tend to focus on trying to get the kids to eat so healthily that we ban other items from the house. It’s important not to do this. If you ban something from the house, you’re telling the kids that they should really crave it—that there has to be a reason not to have it and that you’re forcing the good things on them.
After all, think about how you react when you ban something from the house or your diet! You start craving the food that you really want, and you’re more likely to binge on food at a later date.
Allow everything in moderation and avoid giving ultimatums like “eat this and then you can have that.” Don’t treat the sweet stuff as treats—after all, your children aren’t dogs! Make sweet stuff just a regular part of the meal, such as a dessert at the end of the main dinner. Once they get used to having something sweet during the day it doesn’t seem like a major change when they do get to eat it.
You can even include the healthy stuff with the treats. Fruit and ice cream work extremely well, and you can always add some chocolate sauce on top! Meringues work well for desserts and children feel like they’re eating something naughty with the healthy stuff. There’s a psychological element that encourages them to eat the healthy food to focus on a better lifestyle overall.
Get Them Involved in the Dinner Preparation and Cooking
Why are you doing everything for them? When kids see the food on the table, they feel like you’re cooking to order. After all, it gives a similar feeling to being in a restaurant.
When you get them involved in the preparation or the cooking, they start to feel part of the creative process. They see where their meals come from and there’s a sense of pride that they have been part of it. They’re more likely to eat something because they played a part in it all.
Children you are too young to chop vegetables can help with the throwing in the pan or set the table. As they get older, they can help with the actual preparation and cooking. Eventually, you can even get them doing it all themselves, so they have a turn one night a week making dinner for everyone else—and they get to experiment with tastes and flavours.
When you are getting them involved, allow them to sneak a few of the raw vegetables. Let them try some of the sides and try out the flavours that you’re going to throw in.
They’ll soon realise that the healthy food isn’t as bad as they once thought. In fact, they’re more likely to ask to try something different on a daily basis. They want to get involved in choosing the meals, which moves us onto the next tip.
Ask Kids to Help With Meal Planning
Meal planning is a great way for everyone to get interested in healthy eating. You can set up a plan for the week based on commitments and time constraints while making sure there is something exciting to look forward to.
Some people will only plan the dinners and desserts, while others will plan every single meal of the day. Do what works for you as a household, but definitely get the kids involved with this part of the cooking.
Ask them about their favourite homemade dishes and anything that they’d had at school that they want to try. Show them pictures of some of the recipes and see if they’d like to try it one day. Show them pictures of the colours of the vegetables and find out if they would love to make that one night.
If you have never planned for the week before, don’t jump right into planning all seven days. Start with two or three days and build your way up. You can always bulk cook meals so that you freeze them and have them later in the week—or for lunches the next day!
There’s no need to get extravagant with the cooking. Just a simple chili, stew, or even soup will go a long way.
Encourage Them to Try New Food
We all have a tendency to decide if we like something by look, smell, or feeling. The problem is we haven’t actually tried the food, so we don’t really know.
It’s important to encourage trying new foods and tastes before deciding we like or dislike something. This will come from watching you, too. Don’t make instant assumptions yourself, and your kids will follow your lead. If they see you trying out new dishes, they’ll be more intrigued themselves.
That doesn’t mean the children have actually to like something. You’re encouraging the trying part—getting the food past the lips to react with all the taste buds in the mouth. Once the child has tried it, they can make a decision.
Remember that it can take a few tries of something to decide if they like something or not. Encourage them to try a second or third time before they can rule out a taste completely.
If they decide that they don’t like something, praise them for at least trying it. In a few weeks or months, you can get them to try the food again. Share how taste buds change, and things that we don’t like at first can grow on us.
The constant encouragement will get them to try new dishes in the future. Not only does it help them eat healthier right now, but it will make them open to new cultures and foods in the future. They’ll thank you for it when they’re older.
Try Encouraging Them With Dips
No matter how hard you get them to try something, kids will resist. They don’t want to have something that they’re afraid of not liking. So, you need to find a way to get them to try something new.
You can do this with dips. The type of dips you offer will depend on you and your child. Some parents will start with dips that they know their kids will love, like chocolate or honey. It at least gets the vegetables and other food past the lips. From there, they will build up to healthier dips, like hummus and salsa. Other parents will jump straight in with the likes of healthier salad dressings or hummus.
You can work with the kids’ programs to build up this type of encouragement. See what the kids watch on cooking shows and in their favourite cartoons. Peppa Pig may love a certain type of vegetable that your child hasn’t tried yet. Because Peppa eats it, your child is more likely to try it too.
Introduce New Tastes Slowly and Don’t Pressure Them
Yes, you want to encourage, but you don’t want to put the pressure on your kids to try the new foods. What you need to do is find at least one food in each food group that your kids love.
Find a vegetable or a fruit and serve them with meals. Find a carb that is delicious and a protein that your kids don’t turn their noses up at. From there, you can build on the types of foods that are put on the plates.
Introduce the new options slowly throughout the year. Just one new taste is week usually, all smaller kids can handle. Try it on each day to get them to at least try something. And make sure you show them how they can eat it and that you’re willing to try it too. It didn’t matter if you’ve had it in the past and knew you love it; make it out like it’s the first time you’ve ever tried it. It’s all about leading by example.
Soon, they’ll be willing to try more. They don’t feel the pressure like you’re enforcing them to eat something. There’s not the belief that this has to taste horrible. Otherwise you wouldn’t have to force it on them. They’re less likely to resist. And most of the time they won’t even click that there’s a healthy reason that you’re getting them to eat it—just that you want them to enjoy their food.
Share the Health Benefits as They Get Older
As your kids grow up, they’ll realise that fruits and vegetables are meant to be good for them. They’ll realise that all those foods that you got them to try when they were younger were because they were better for their bodies.
Many kids can start to resist at this point. They don’t want to do something that is good for them.
That’s why you need to take a step forward and share all the health benefits. If your kids have dietary problems, share why certain foods help them. Keep it in language that they will understand, such as remembering a time when they had a sore tummy and how a certain food helped to settle that.
The older they get, the more they can take in. You can build up the health benefits. Maybe you can show photos of the past and how certain eating foods helped everyone in the family.
Sometimes you will need to allow them to trial by error. They’ll need to remember the pain that they once felt or how drained in energy they once felt to realise just why they want the healthy food. Just be there for them and help encourage the healthy eating to remind them just how good it is.
You Can Help Your Children Eat Healthier
Now it’s all over to you. It’s up to you as a parent to help your child eat healthier—and want to eat healthier. This can start right now, and it really doesn’t matter how old your child is. The younger, the better, but even older children can change the ways they think about food.
Take the time to go through the above tips. And remember that it really is all about leading by example. It’s up to you to show them that healthy food is exciting, tasty, and beneficial. Only you can show them how yummy food can be and that trying out new things isn’t that bad or scary after all.
Make food fun through shapes and patterns. Encourage new tastes slowly, and avoid pressuring into eating something that they’re not too sure about. With enough encouragement, they will start making healthier choices and find that those foods and spices that they didn’t really like the idea of aren’t as bad as they once thought.