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How to instill healthy eating habits in your kids
“How do I teach my child healthy eating habits?”
We all know that kids aren’t the most adventurous of eaters. When it comes to food, they tend to eat what they like and leave the rest on their plates.
What’s a parent to do when a child doesn’t have healthy eating habits?
Let me just say that my toddler loves her chips and fruit snacks. She also likes broccoli and green beans. And then there are certain foods she won’t touch.
Keep in mind that she’s two…she’s still learning about different kinds of food.
Kids don’t automatically come into this world with a love for healthy foods — it’s our job to instill healthy eating habits in them.
I’ve been thinking about it lately, and I put together this list of ideas for ways we can encourage healthy choices. But odds are, even if you do everything on this list, your kids may not learn to like a wide variety of foods until they are older.
I’ve been told that my husband wouldn’t eat any green foods when he was a kid…and now he’s the most adventurous eater I know. And I never realized how good asparagus and brussels sprouts could be until I learned how to cook them with the right seasonings.
But if you don’t even try to instill healthy eating habits in your kids, who knows…they might never learn to try new things.
Below are some of my favorite healthy eating tips for kids.
10 Healthy Eating Tips for Kids
Instill health eating habits in your children with these ten tips and tricks.
1. Lead by example
One of the best ways to instill healthy eating habits in kids is to lead by example. Let them see you making healthy choices. After all, why would they want to eat their veggies if they see you passing them over?
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2. Recruit help in the kitchen
Cook together as a family! Let the kids help with (age-appropriate) meal prep to expose them to a variety of healthy ingredients. When they are involved in making a meal, they will be more likely to try it.
3. Avoid bribery or threats
How many of us are guilty of bribing our kids to eat their food?
It’s one thing to require them to try a bite to see if they like it, but would you like if someone forced you to finish eating something you don’t like?
My two-year-old just plain doesn’t like any form of potatoes (other than potato chips!), but I still put a small portion on her plate without forcing her to eat them.
One day, she may try them again and decide she likes them after all.
4. Honor their appetite
This is definitely one of my favorite healthy eating tips for kids.
Let them decide when they are done eating. What are we teaching them if we force them to continue eating once their stomachs are full? We’re teaching them to eat even when they aren’t hungry.
I always tell Kenna that once her tummy is happy, she can leave the table.
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5. Choose whole foods
Serve whole foods — like whole grain breads, fruits, and vegetables — rather than white bread and fruit juice.
Whole foods provide us with fiber, which aids in the digestive process, and kids need to get used to the different textures whole foods provide.
6. Serve up a rainbow
Serve a rainbow of colors at every meal to get kids interested in a variety of foods.
This means including various fruits and vegetables at mealtimes, along with the main dish.
A colorful plate of food is much more interesting and enticing than an all-white plate of chicken, rice, and cauliflower.
7. Balance food groups
Include all the food groups at every meal.
I always try to incorporate a protein and a carbohydrate like potatoes, rice, or pasta, plus either a fruit of veggie — or both — into every meal.
Carbs provide us with energy, while protein builds and repairs tissue in the body. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy.
8. Drink lots of water
Rather than sugary beverages, encourage water drinking…and be sure to drink plenty of water yourself to set an example.
I consider myself pretty lucky because Kenna has always preferred water over any other beverage, and has just recently started asking for a glass of milk on occasion.
She still doesn’t like juice, which is fine by me!
9. Encourage togetherness
Eat together as a family when possible…at the table, not the television. Eating in front of the TV is a bad habit to get into because it can encourage overeating.
(Have you ever gotten caught up in a show, only to realize that you ate an entire bag of chips? :o)
10. Avoid using food as a motivator
This is one of the biggest healthy eating tip for kids: Avoid using food as punishment or reward.
It’s hard, but I try not to promise a treat in exchange for finishing dinner, and I absolutely won’t withhold food as punishment. Using food as a motivator only encourages emotional eating, which is certainly not a healthy eating habit.
I’ll admit, our eating habits aren’t perfect, and our daughter doesn’t always eat wholesome foods. We allow her to eat treats on occasion (probably more occasions than we should!).
However, we are constantly working to improve her eating habits and expose her to a variety of healthy foods.
Now that you have some healthy eating tips for kids under your belt, which one will you try out first?
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