When it comes to helping children develop healthy eating habits, parents can start by developing their own healthy habits and attitudes toward food. Parents are the most important influence in their children’s lives. Kids watch and mimic everything parents do, and pick up on parental attitudes. When parents set a healthy eating example, kids will follow their lead.
A great place to start is by committing to eating meals together at least a few times a week. Studies have shown that children have healthier eating habits when families eat meals together. Be sure to keep mealtime relaxed and enjoyable. Avoid power struggles over food, and instead focus on conversation. Use conversation starters, such as asking each family member to describe the best and worst parts of their day. Seeing their parents relax and enjoy healthy meals helps kids develop a healthy attitude toward food.
Meals are important, so don’t skip any. Breakfast is a particularly important meal. A nutritious breakfast gives kids the energy they need to learn and be active. Breakfast gives parents the energy they need too. If parents eat breakfast, kids will be more likely to eat in the morning too. If the morning is rushed, reach for a quick, nutritious breakfast that will give kids energy that lasts all morning. Try oatmeal, which contains less sugar than breakfast cereal, or peanut butter on multigrain toast.
At breakfast, other meals or snack time, the food choices parents make for themselves are important. Kids who see their parents eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains are more likely to eat those foods themselves. Wise beverage choices are equally important. Choosing water, milk or other healthy drinks sets a healthy example for children. When making food choices, be willing to try something new once in a while. If parents are willing to try new foods, kids will be more likely to try new foods also.
A great way to encourage kids to try those new foods is to cook together. Children enjoy cooking with their parents, and are more likely to sample foods they’ve helped prepare. Invite kids to help plan meals, letting them to pick healthy foods they like or would like to try. Planning and cooking meals is a great way to spend time together, and helps kids develop a positive attitude toward food.
When parents make healthy choices, kids are more likely to develop healthy eating habits also. While no parent is a perfect role model, parents who show positive attitudes toward food and demonstrate healthy eating habits will have a positive impact on their children.
Britney Fuller is a writer who enjoys writing on a number of different verticals. For more on healthy kids, Greenmums Blog offers readers healthy snacking alternatives for your children.