Healthy eating habits taught at a young age can reward your kids with a lifetime of good health. Set up your family for success by ditching the sugary, processed and preservative-laden foods, and stocking up on healthy, nutritious options.
Talk about healthy eating
When talking about healthy eating with your kids, don’t concentrate on the things they shouldn’t eat. Instead, discuss all the wonderful things they can eat. Kids generally think of nutritious food as boring food, and your job is to teach them that’s not the case. Stock your refrigerator and pantry with a wide variety of unique, tasty, healthy whole foods including lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and nuts.
Teach them about moderation
Don’t label non-nutritious foods as “bad” or “forbidden.” Instead, teach them how to satisfy their cravings with healthy options first. For example, a child who loves sweets may learn to enjoy whole fruits. When craving something crunchy, celery, carrots or whole grain pretzels should be their first options. When talking about cookies, chips and other unhealthy items, explain how these foods don’t provide the body with the fuel it needs and should only be eaten on occasion and in moderation.
Shop and cook together
When you are at the grocery store, teach your children to avoid processed foods and to read the labels on everything the family is buying. Teach them about things to look out for — high fat, sugar and sodium content, as well as unwanted preservatives and other additives. Make it a habit to visit your local farmers market where kids can get a good look at a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Allow your children, even the young ones, to take part in the shopping decisions for your family. When kids are involved in shopping, preparing and cooking their own food, they are more likely to want to eat it.
Plant a vegetable garden
Of the same vein, it’s important to teach your children about how healthy foods grow. A fantastic way to do this is by planting your own vegetable garden. Gardening together teaches them about science and also provides some bonding time. Involve your kids in picking out the seeds, preparing the soil, watering the plants and harvesting the vegetables. If you don’t have a large yard, you can plant vegetables like tomatoes right on your window sill.
Read about how to grow vegetables without a garden >>
Stock up on nutritious snacks
If your kids are young, you won’t have many unhealthy eating habits to break. However, if your children are older, it may be difficult to teach them about the value of nutritious foods. Even if your kids make healthy choices at meals, they may have difficulty when it comes to snacks. Stock up on healthy, nutritious treats to nosh on — such as fresh and dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, whole grain crackers, yogurt and more. By having nutritious options in accessible places in your kitchen, your kids will be more encouraged to start eating them.
Sit down together for meals
In today’s hustle and bustle world, many of us don’t take time to sit down together as a family for meals as often as we should. Try to sit down for breakfast every day, and even with a busy schedule, aim for dinner together at least four nights a week. Mealtime is a fabulous opportunity to talk about healthy eating and what is on our plates. Discuss the different nutrients provided by each of the foods, and how they can nourish us physically and mentally. Sitting down to meals also provides additional time to bond as a family and learn about what is happening in each of your children’s lives.