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7 Ways to Inspire Kids Healthy Eating Habits!
Dear Ellen, throughout the unstructured summertime our kids have picked up some poor eating habits, especially avoiding fruits and vegetables and overdoing sweets! With back to school structure in the air, I would like some tips on how to inspire them to get back on track and eat healthier without quarrelling!
Given the above infographic, we can see that in our abundant food environment, many of our children are overfed but undernourished. To protect our children from our current environment, we want to make sure they have the tools to thrive while maintaining a balanced diet. There are three important concepts to focus on:
1. Good nutrition is the foundation of health and inspires other healthy lifestyle choices.
2. The best time to establish good health and nutritional habits is during childhood.
3. Parental involvement is the key to getting children to adopt good health habits.
In this article let’s focus on 7 inspiring healthy eating strategies for kids, especially fruit and vegetable consumption which is a key indicator of health in most European countries. We will look at specific recipes, tricks and tips for what to feed our fussy kids in the next article!
1. Be a role model
It has consistently been shown that children’s fruit and vegetable intake are related to how much their parents consume and that consumption can be enhanced when parents are good role-models. Family meal patterns, in particular shared family meals and a comfortable meal environment , can also improve healthy eating in kids.
2. Get kids involved
Children are often more invested in a meal if they participate in preparation, so why not:
- Take them to the market or grocery store and let them choose something to prepare
- Start a garden and teach them how to plant and harvest their own
- Ask them to clean veggies, mix the salad dressing, or stir the soup
- Ask them to creatively set the table to enhance their sense of pride
- Offer a healthy kids cookbook or have them surf websites for their favourites
- Give them the choice of raw or cooked, some kids have a preference
- Check out these free healthy cooking apps to get your kids in the kitchen!
3. Make food fun
- If your kids just aren’t that into veggies and fruits, try making them look fun!
- Pair foods with healthy dips like guacamole, fruit salsa or cucumber raita.
- Arrange food in patterns on the plate making faces or animals.
- Offer veggies on top of favourite foods like pizza, sandwiches or tacos
- Skewer veggies or fruits on long sticks
- Always have freshly cut colourful vegetable in the refrigerator
- Keep fruit visible or out in a fun kid-friendly bowl or cups
- If you’re looking for some inspiration on fun-looking veggies, check out this Pinterest board of carved fruits and vegetables.
4. Delight in trying new foods
Expose children to a variety of new and healthy foods in a pleasant way in restaurants, picnics or travelling. Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, instead teach children how to balance eating for nourishment with eating for enjoyment.
5. Just get it!
Children have very different values, usually feel invincible and do not really care about health! Think about other benefits on their agendas NOW such as:
- Become stronger like…
- Play your favourite sport / activity better…
- Feel more focused for school…
- Grow bigger like….
- Run faster…
6. Don’t bribe or force
Fighting and punishments ultimately create a negative meal experience, and the child may learn to associate food with bad feelings that could increase picky eating tendencies. In addition, forcing children to finish does not allow them to eat instinctively and decide whether or not they are full which could backfire in adulthood as mindless eating.
- Try to pay attention when children say they are hungry or full.
- Ensure the message is positive rather than negative like “let’s eat some yummy berries, we’ll have sweets another time” rather than “no sweets for you, only fruit”.
- Avoid bribing children with dessert for finishing their meal.
- Avoid imposing strict food rules since this could lead to rebellious eating later.
- Avoid using food as a reward but reward desired bahavior with praise, extra attention or privileges.
- Try not to comfort children with food , try to use understanding words or hugs instead
7. Keep at it
Some children will be more difficult than others, and will require more effort and patience. It has been shown that dietary habits learned in childhood seem to be predictive for healthy eating habits in adulthood. The earlier children are introduced to vegetables the more likely they are to have higher consumption levels at pre-school age. However, children can be very picky. It may take as many as 10 to 15 tries with a new food before a child is willing to accept it and remember, it is never too late to learn these skills!