The most obvious suggestion in teaching your children to eat right is by setting a good example. Insisting they have a healthy snack while they watch you finish off a bag of chips just won’t cut it. Children imitate us. Adults are their examples, so be sure you are instilling healthy eating habits in eager little eyes watching.
The first trick, is to train yourself. Get rid of chips, sugary sodas and cookies. If you don’t have junk food lying around, it’ll be much easier to reach for those grapes or veggies. If you occasionally indulge, have a snack size bag of chips or a mini candy bar on the top shelf. Teaching kids that occasional treats are ok but not to overindulge is good. It teaches them self control.
Next, stock your fridge with veggies and fruit. Whole fruit is nutritious and easy for little ones. Freeze grapes for a summertime treat or use calcium fortified orange juice frozen into Popsicles. As soon as you get home from the market, wash and chop up your vegetables so they are ready for when hunger strikes.
In your pantry, skip chemical and sodium ridden boxed goods. Stock a variety of beans, whole wheats, brown rice and pastas. These staples last a long time and can be used in a variety of ways. Instead of getting sugary cereals for the kids, try a whole wheat cereal and put fresh bananas and strawberries on it to add some flavor.
For picky little eaters, offer a wide variety of options. Although kids may scoff at a vegetable the first time it’s offered, usually for the fourth or fifth try their taste buds will have adapted to the new flavor. Although you may hate brussel sprouts, it may be their favorite veggie so offer a lot of options. If your kids are really finicky, blend spinach into their mashed potatoes, melt cheese on their broccoli, or sprinkle a marshmallow or two on their sweet potatoes. Teach them that eating healthy can be tasty.
If you do get the urge for something sweet, teach your children that there are healthy low fat options that satisfy the sweet tooth. Blend fruits together and throw in a small scoop of ice cream for a tasty smoothie. Bake their favorite cookies but substitute wheat flour for white or add oats to the recipe.
When you go out to eat, you can lead by example by ordering healthy items. Ask for vegetables or a side salad instead of fries. Instead of insisting they eat everything on their plate, suggest a doggy bag so they can take the rest home for lunch tomorrow.
With obesity and health risks at an all time high, it’s important that our children learn from day one how important it is to take care of our bodies. If you set a good example and make health conscious decisions for your family, trust that your children will follow in your footsteps.