How to Teach Your Children to Make Smarter Food Choices
One of the leading causes of childhood obesity is poor food choices. When faced with a decision between vegetables and a cookie, most children are going to choose the cookie. However, with a few strategic lessons and a good role model you can teach your children to put their health first. Here’s how.
* Help them learn to like healthy foods. Children often resist many foods including vegetables and whole grains because they’re being forced upon them. Instead of preparing a plate of lima beans and telling your child to eat it all, give them a choice. Prepare a variety of vegetables, side dishes and whole grain options. Encourage your child to try new things.
A child generally has to try something several times before they begin to like it. Be patient. Reward them with verbal praise when they try new healthy foods. If they say they don’t like it, nod your head and praise them for trying it. Let them know that taste buds change and they might like it better next time.
* Make sugar a treat. Many children have become so accustomed to sweet foods that anything that doesn’t have sugar just tastes bad. If your child eats a lot of sweets, start reducing the amount they have available to them. Limit it initially to one treat a day and then eventually consider reducing it to one treat a week.
However, make sure that food doesn’t become a reward for behavior. And don’t forget to check things like cereal which can be high in sugar. Once your child’s sweet tooth has been tamed, they’ll enjoy eating a variety of other healthy foods.
* Involve them in meal planning and preparation. A child that helps you prepare a meal is going to be much more excited about eating it. Invite your children to help you choose meals. Consider putting them in charge of the meal choice for one evening each week. You can provide them with a list of choices. You can also browse cookbooks together. Also consider, if they’re old enough, letting them come to you with a few options.
Also ask your children to participate in shopping and meal preparation. When you’re in the produce area, ask your children to find and pick out the various vegetables and fruits you need for the meal. They’ll learn about their veggies and they’ll be more excited to try them.
* Be a good role model. You cannot expect your child to make healthy choices if you do not. Take good care of your health. Exercise and eat well. Let your children see that taking care of themselves and making good food choices is important.
* Embrace other cultures. Often one of the great ways to help your children appreciate food is to help them learn about what other cultures eat. You can embrace one country each month and make a meal. Have a culture night. Combine it with family game night and make trying new foods something to look forward too.
* Teach your children the why behind the food choices. If your children don’t know why they should make healthy choices, they won’t care. Explain about how the body works and what it needs to function properly. Talk to them about how some foods provide lasting energy while other foods burn out quickly and make us feel tired and cranky. Adjust the conversation depending on your child’s age.
Finally, enjoy food. It’s easy to be too rigid about food. This can cause a backlash. It can motivate children to hide food and to feel ashamed. Make sure children know that it’s about moderation, not restriction and deprivation. Good food and healthy choices can go hand in hand.