It’s so tough to teach kids to eat well these days. There are unnatural and unhealthy ingredients in our most inexpensive, most accessible foods. Kids can eat all the bad stuff they like as soon as they’re out of our supervision. It’s tough to monitor their diets. Even still, it’s important that we work to leave them healthy habits once they’re out from under our thumbs. Here’s how you can tech your kids to eat well.
1. Dinner time should be family time.
In our modern, busy lives it’s not uncommon for the family to eat separately. A couple people eat together, another eats in the car on the way to practice, one eats leftovers when she gets home, etc. When we grab something quick or eat in a rush, those foods tend to be unhealthy. Have everyone sit down to dinner together so you can actively monitor everyone’s food intake.
2. Involve your kids in the food shopping.
This isn’t always practical, but whenever possible, include your kids in the food shopping. As you shop, examine the packing labels and discuss the ingredients. Point out how not all foods are equal, and while some may quell hunger, they offer little or no nutritional value. The idea is to make understanding what they’re eating a part of the process.
3. Track down tasty foods.
Foods and snacks don’t need to be laden with sugar to be tasty. In fact, after a period of abstaining from sugar, you would notice that sugary foods are nearly unbearable. There’s a lot of tasty and healthy options out there, you just have to find them. The unhealthy stuff is usually front and center because it’s cheap and easy for stores to stock.
4. Limit sugar and salt.
These two ingredients are a big part of American food and while they’re fine in moderation, they a play a big role in the processed food we put on our store shelves. We don’t just find salt and sugar in cookies and candy, either. Large amounts are added into our staples, like bread, canned soups and vegetables and condiments.
5. Limit portion sizes.
Avoid filling your child’s plate and forcing them to finish every bite. This creates an unhealthy behavior of eating just because food is available. If your child is honestly full, don’t insist they keep eating. We tend to make larger portions for ourselves than we need, but we finish it before our brain registers that our stomachs are full. Eat a bit less and you’ll be surprised that you aren’t hungry.
6. Keep a positive attitude.
Kids (or anyone, for that matter) don’t like to hear what they can’t do. They like to hear what they’re allowed to do. When they ask what’s for dinner, tell them the menu with a positive attitude. Talk about how much you love green beans, peas, carrots and broccoli. Make it seem like a treat that they get to eat such great food. Praise them for eating well without being forced.
7. Serve as a good role model.
Like all parts of parenthood, your kids are going to behave like you no matter what you say. You can’t tell them to eat healthy if you don’t do it yourself. Piling salad on their plates will feel like punishment if you’re skipping that course. Eat the same healthy foods your kids eat and do it with a smile.
8. Set reasonable goals.
Creating hard, unbending rules is the best way to see them broken. If you banish sugary treats from your house entirely, you’ll make your kids crave them and binge when they get the opportunity. Most foods are safe in moderation, so don’t skip birthday cake because it isn’t healthy; let everyone live a little.
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