Your little one is starting to shoot up like a bean sprout. They’re learning so many new things all of the time, and you couldn’t be more proud. The only struggle is when it comes to meal time. Every day it seems to be a fight when it comes time to eat. To get over that hump, here are a few tips to encourage your kids to eat better.
- Set a Good Example: Kids are little sponges. They watch and learn from everything around them. If you are reaching for a bag of potato chips for snacks, then they will, too. Start your child’s healthy eating habits by having good habits yourself and leading by example.
- Have Healthy Food Available: Stock the pantry with lots of options for different healthy snacks. Have applesauce packets, apples and peanut butter, raisins, and fruits as good snack options. Kids will eat what is there. If you keep unhealthy snacks around, make them hard to reach and out of their line of sight. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Start Young: Form good habits at an early age. It’s much more difficult to undo poor eating habits than it is to start healthy ones. As soon as kids are able to eat, teach them how to have a good relationship with food.
- Explain What Each Food Does: Kids don’t understand why they have to eat funny looking broccoli when Oreos taste so much better. To them, they both make you full, so why would they eat something they don’t like? This is why you should explain to them the different things that the foods do. If they are interested in baseball, then let them know that they need spinach to grow big and tall and have strong muscles. Tell them about how carrots help your eyes, and that avocados are good for your skin and hair. Once they start making these connections with different foods, then they will understand why they have a colorful plate.
- Make Meal Time A Routine: It’s tempting to plop the kids in front of the TV and put a plate of food down. They are quiet for once, and you get a small break–but–this isn’t a healthy eating habit. Kids will become distracted with the show and forget to eat. Kids will eat a few bites, and then want to get up and play or they’ll become engrossed in the show that’s on. To form a better relationship with food and eating, remove any outside distractions and sit at the kitchen table together. You can have some soft music playing in the background, but this is a time for everyone to sit and be together. Talk to each other and encourage your kids to stay seated until they have eaten enough to be excused from the table.
- To Clean Your Plate, or Not To Clean Your Plate: The big push when I was younger was to always clean your plate. This means that you must eat everything on your plate before you were allowed to leave the table. While, the sentiment behind it is ok, it’s not the best course of action to set a good relationship with food. This can cause overeating and poor food relationships later in life. Give smaller portion sizes to your kids, and if they would like some more, then you can always get more.
You want the best for your kids, which means being healthy and strong. The only way to do that is by what they are eating. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat.” Food is so simple, but it’s one of the most important things in life. Give them the tools to grow up and make good food choices when you aren’t around.