8 strategies right up your sleeves to encourage healthy eating in children
It becomes your least favorite time of the day: mealtime. Healthy eating in children can be one of the most challenging tasks for parents. The kids have turned up their noses at the rice, dal, and vegetables you made. Now they’re negotiating for chicken nuggets and their favorite pasta. Despite knowing that nutrition is important for your growing and energetic child, you reluctantly put the dal away and tear open a bag of frozen nuggets. What else could you do? While you do this, you wonder how to get them to eat healthy and make nutritious meals appealing to your kids? Ensuring children is eating proteinaceous food is both a priority and a challenge for caregivers, and fussy eating can be annoying to deal with. Whether you’re a childcare provider or a frazzled parent, if you really care about healthy eating habits in children, you need a few strategies up your sleeve for getting them to eat that’s required. Not all children are the same. They often respond and react differently to different kinds of encouragement. So here’s a range of strategies to arm yourself with to triumph at mealtime.
Eight easy hacks to help children eat healthy
Healthy eating in children is important for strong bones, teeth, and a healthy heart. It helps maintain a healthy weight, promotes optimal body function, and keeps the brain sharp and ready to learn. But not all kids understand this.
For most parents, helping children develop a love for healthy foods can be challenging. With the hectic pace of many household chores, it sometimes seems much easier to tolerate less than desirable eating habits.
- Don’t ban eating junk food outright.
Just go easy! Once kids get their first taste of crispy, sweet, and salty foods, it’s hard to get them unhooked. Well, that’s the bitter fact! But Tada! We have one strategy! You need to limit the number of binge eating that kids are allowed to eat each day, rather than ban these foods completely. Guess what? This is the only way kids won’t be as tempted to crib for what they can’t have. Banning specific food increases the temptation to eat more. What if the food becomes available to your child outside your home? For sure, he or she will eat it despite feeling full. Yeah! That’s how most of our minds work! This will ultimately lead to a habit of overeating.
- Encourage Healthy Eating in children at School
Picture this: You have instilled a sense of pride in your child’s nutrition when they are home, but when they leave for the day, they are getting exposed to outside dietary influences. Do you think they are safe? No, isn’t it? For six to seven hours a day, they will be having their snacks and lunches at school. Don’t you think you should take at least some initiative to ensure they can access the most nutritious food possible? How about you and other parents, along with the educators, take up the initiative of conducting a healthy school breakfast program and lunch? Yes! This Strategy no. 2 will undoubtedly impact children’s mindset, at least to some extent. The trick is: you have to pack the lunch box before your child resists the urge to opt for convenient processed pre-packaged meals. Yahoo! A lot of patience and a little planning can go a long way for households’ busiest. So, it’s good to prepare healthy lunches well in advance so that you don’t have to scramble for options in the morning rush at home.
- Avoid buying unhealthy foods in bulk.
If you want to buy a treat, choose to buy the smallest possible package of that food, instead of the economy bulk-sized packages. For example, buying a small pack of cheesy popcorn is better than buying one family pack. Now here is the trick. Store any bulk-size snack foods away from kids’ sight. This strategy will help your kids to be less tempted to mindlessly graze on it throughout the day and encourage healthy eating in children.
- Avoid offering sweet treats.
We all know, tooth decay is caused by having sugary food and drinks too often. So, as parents and caregivers, your strategy should be to try to make sure that cakes, biscuits, and confectionery are avoided in your setting. However, there lies an important difference between the natural sugars found in whole fruit and milk and the free sugars present in juices and cakes. Natural sugar is better for little milk teeth as it brings with it some crucial vitamins and minerals. So when it’s desserts, it’s a safe bet to base them on fruit, dairy products and reduce the amount of added free sugar no matter what. We may be living in a text-happy, Facebook-loving world, but kids still love lemonades, protein milkshake, and watermelon smoothie. And when they do, they are surely going to intake the good stuff that’s purely made by you. Check out this page and click on these healthy recipes you want to make for your kiddo.
- Start with small proteins.
The next strategy is to use smaller plates, bowls, and utensils for your child to eat with, allowing them to serve themselves when they are old enough to do so safely. You can begin this practice when they are 2 to 4 years old and start with allowing them to serve salad from a small bowl that you hold for them. The fun fact of the strategy is making them feel “like a grown-up” while helping them learn to measure how much to eat and encourage them to take one serving at a time.
- Stick to a strict meal and snack time
Keeping to a regular meal and snack schedule discourages kids from grazing throughout the day or becoming too hungry in between meals. This, in return, causes them to compensate by overeating later. Most children require three meals and one snack each day. And although it’s important to stick to a particular eating time, do not pressure your child into eating if they sometimes say that they are not hungry at mealtime. The strategy here is if you find your child skipping a meal, do not let them “make up for it” with something else. Instead, offer a healthy snack, such as apples or baby carrots, and make sure that they eat enough at their next meal.
- Nutritious New Foods: Try, and Try Again
Explaining healthy eating to a child can be stressful. Don’t be discouraged if your kiddo stubbornly turns away from mashed broccoli or strained peas. Patience is the key here. It takes time for children to like a new food’s taste. That’s the only reason we would recommend you to keep offering a new food as many times as possible. It can take up to a dozen tries for a child to decide whether they like a particular food. Help a picky eater feel more in control of their food choices and finally end up in helping him like the healthy meals you prepare by posing some exciting food questions as an option. For example, instead of just asking, “Do you want tomatoes as a dinner side dish?” what if you ask, “Which would you prefer at dinner: cucumbers or tomatoes?” Try this strategy until it works wonders for your kids.
- Listen and Involve
Communication between parents and children about food preferences is essential. Also, asking children about their views on food and food-related issues should be a fundamental part of daily care.
This allows little ones to voice their feelings and concerns over food if they have any. At the same time, it is essential for you to actively encourage children’s involvement in planning menus, food shopping, preparing, and cooking food. Encouraging eating well does not mean forbidding certain types of foods they do not like. Eating a healthier diet is about keeping the right balance and eating more of some foods as well as eating less of others.
If you are worried that they’re overeating or not eating enough, fear not! A child’s pediatrician, doctor, or nutritionist is always a click away from you. Get a thorough check-up done for your kids.
Don’t forget to ask these questions to doctors when you meet!
Do you suggest a vegetarian or vegan diet for my child?
- Are carbohydrates bad for him?
- Does my child need to have a gluten-free diet?
- Are soy-based products better than dairy products?
As they care for your child, only they can explain to you all the strategies to encourage healthy eating in them.
From pouring their health drink to tying their shoe, teaching children to do things that will help them pave their way for a healthy, happy, and independent future. The truth is- we won’t always be there to guide them throughout their lives. So teaching them to take care of themselves is important. And when it comes to food, what your child eats can either be hugely beneficial or alarmingly unhealthy. As healthy eating is important for children, you have to take care of it as of now. It’s not always about teaching kids how to eat with a spoon; it’s more about teaching what to put on the spoon that’s important.
So, next time you serve rice, dal, and veggies, make sure you follow these strategies to encourage healthy eating in children. Do write to us if any of these strategies work best for your little one.
Until next time…Stay healthy! Stay raw!