Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy
Now that I have a child, I’m often asked – and wonder myself – when is too early to let my kid develop healthy eating habits? After some research and thought, I realize that the earlier you can start, the better. By the age of three, most children know what they prefer to eat. And you want them to eat as healthy as possible for the rest of their lives.
There’s plenty you can do to make sure your kids eat right. Starting with eating healthy while pregnant. What you’re eating turns into your baby’s main source of nutrition, so if you’re breastfeeding, realize that eating broccoli for dinner is much more beneficial to the baby than Lucky Charms.
Later, as soon as your child can actually eat on her own, you’ll need to point her (I have a daughter so am just going to use “her”) in the right direction. Talk to her about what she’s eating and make it fun. Never force your child to eat and don’t rush meals. If anything, encourage her to chew small bites and eat slowly so that she learns to listen to her body about when she’s full. And remember, your baby’s tastes change daily so keep trying to feed her a variety of options. Whatever you do, don’t let your child dictate what she eats at an early age or you’ll regret it.
Don’t be fooled: teaching your kid to eat healthy doesn’t end at age three. You have to stay on top of that for as long as possible. Do things like offer tons of healthy options at home, so that she can choose what she wants to eat. If you dictate her food choices, that’ll only backfire since she’ll find a way to eat what she wants later on. If she feels like she’s in control and selecting from only healthy food from the pantry, it’s unlikely she’ll feel compelled to scarf some junk food later on.
There are other things you can do to encourage healthy eating habits. Don’t eat in front of the TV. This just causes mindless overeating. Encourage her to drink water, and avoid juices and sodas that are loaded with sugar. If your kid’s overweight, don’t put her on a diet. Encourage her to eat healthier and exercise instead. Don’t punish or reward with food. Also, have fun cooking in the kitchen. That way, you can show her how to prep healthy foods and make her feel proud about what she is doing. Plus, she’ll be more inclined to try different types of foods if she is the one cooking them. And last but not least, be an example to your child. The same way you need to show her how to do certain things - like clean up, be nice to people, listen when being talked to and so on - you need to show her how to eat (and exercise) as well.