It’s no secret that achieving a healthy diet in children sometimes presents some difficulties. Denial of a balanced meal can be due to gastrointestinal issues, sensory preferences and a general dislike of routine.
Picky eaters may not get enough vegetables and fruits, protein, and instead rely on trans fats and sugary foods and drinks.
These habits can continue into adulthood and lead to poorer developmental quality, physical activity level, and overall health. Fortunately, there are several eating practices that parents can use to promote healthy eating in children and instill positive habits over the long term.
Preparing food differently to offer healthy eating to children
Vegetables can be fresh, boiled, steamed, baked, air fried, pureed, pickled, fried and much more. The list goes on! Experiment with different seasonings, such as adding garlic, onion, ginger, or sauces. You can mix healthy ingredients into your favorite dishes like pasta and pizza to help kids get used to new tastes. Mixing different dishes at mealtime provides a more complete diet and also allows children to routinely try new foods.
Reward positive eating habits
Children love rewards, and parents can use this to their advantage by encouraging healthy eating in children. Rewarding them for eating healthy foods like vegetables and fruits can be a great way to encourage better eating habits.
Rewards can come in the form of praise, stickers, or even a small gift. It is important to ensure that the rewards are not too unhealthy, such as sugary snacks or candy, as this can lead to poor eating habits.
Rewards can also be used to encourage variety in your diet. By rewarding children for trying new foods, they will be more open to trying different foods and flavors. This can help expand their palates and help them enjoy a balanced diet.
different food plate
The appearance of food can make a difference. Try placing the food on a different plate, or arrange the food in different orientations, such as coins or strips. Younger children can find comfort in exploring new foods through play such as squeezing, sniffing or stacking.
Children may struggle with structure and consistency. Providing structure and routine at mealtimes can help children develop better eating habits. Establishing regular meal times and providing healthy snacks between meals can help children understand when they should eat and what is considered a healthy snack.
Parents should also limit distractions during meal times. Watching TV, playing video games, or using phones can take your focus away from eating. Creating a pleasant, calm environment can encourage children to be more mindful of their meals and focus on food.
Models of healthy eating habits and choices in children
Children are always watching and learning from their parents, so it’s important for parents to model healthy eating habits. Children are more likely to eat healthy foods if they see their parents eating them too.
This can also help show kids that healthy food can be enjoyable. Parents should also be aware of their own snacking habits. Eating unhealthy snacks in front of children can send the message that these types of foods are acceptable. Instead, parents should opt for healthier snacks like fruits and vegetables when in the presence of their children.
Avoid punishing or bribing your child to eat healthier, which can backfire and develop a skewed value system around food. Instead, if you show your personal pleasure in eating healthy foods, your child will be more willing to try them.
make eating fun
Making eating fun can be a great way to encourage kids to eat healthy foods. This can be done by letting children help prepare meals, letting them choose which fruits and vegetables they want to eat, or creatively presenting their food.
This can make mealtimes more enjoyable and children are more likely to eat the food if they participate in its preparation. Parents can also use this as an opportunity to teach their children about nutrition. Explaining the benefits of different food groups and how they contribute to health can help encourage children to eat healthier.
Involve them in grocery shopping to encourage healthy eating in children
Inviting children to help with shopping can be a great way to promote healthy eating. This can be done by letting children choose their own fruits and vegetables or by discussing the nutritional value of different foods. This can help kids understand why healthy foods are important and give them an active role in their diet. Parents should also consider the food they buy for their children.
Choosing healthy snacks and meals over processed and sugary foods can help encourage better eating habits. It can also be beneficial to read nutrition facts labels when shopping to ensure the foods you buy are healthy.
Involve your child in food preparation
Cooking with your child is a fun bonding activity! A child who participates in the selection and preparation of his food will enjoy eating more. Allowing your child to choose what they would like to eat from a list of healthy options encourages healthy decision making. Take the time to teach them about each food. Fostering a love of healthy food starts with fostering a healthy relationship with your child.
Offer/Variety to achieve a healthy diet in children
Offering children a variety of foods can help encourage healthy eating. This can be done by providing a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as different proteins and grains. By introducing children to different flavors and textures, they are more likely to find foods they like and are more willing to try new things. You should also keep in mind that children may need to try a food several times before they like it. It can be helpful to serve a food several times, or in different ways, before giving up.
Repetition is key! Most children will resolve their behavior over time as they are exposed to a greater variety of foods through social interactions, increased independence and autonomy.
We understand! Picky eaters are a challenge. Remember that young children are learning something new every day. Childhood is a precious time and needs to be nurtured. Indulging in eating is a common developmental stage. Forcing a child to eat new foods is counterproductive and may actually make the child more likely to be a fussy eater. It is important for parents to facilitate healthy eating practices in a healthy and happy way to prevent more serious eating disorders from developing in their children.
Healthy eating habits are important for children’s development, and parents can use these seven eating practices to promote healthy eating in their children. In addition to rewarding positive eating habits, providing structure, making eating fun, modeling healthy habits, involving children in grocery shopping, offering variety and avoiding pressure, parents can help their children to develop positive eating habits long term.
Remember, children do not understand the importance of healthy eating, so it is imperative that parents and caregivers encourage children to follow nutritious dietary guidelines. When junk food is causing nutritional deficits or overeating problems, it is best to take the child to the pediatrician to diagnose and alleviate the symptoms.