Procreation is the fun part. Despite the sleepless nights, the first-few-months to a-year of child raising is the easy part. Sure, there are sleepless nights, and they seem to need so much stuff (don’t they?), but they stay where you put them; they eat, poop, play and, sleep. Then comes disciplining and teaching them good habits. Discipline that requires our dedication and constant attention in order not only to survive but thrive too!
No one ever said that raising a child was easy, and when it comes to teaching them healthy eating habits, the task can seem downright daunting. But with some creativity and perseverance, it is possible to instill lifelong good eating habits in your child.
A healthy (or unhealthy) eating lifestyle mostly starts at an early age and begins at home. We must take responsibility and teach our children how to eat healthily and why it’s essential.
What we eat has a significant impact on our long-term health, so it’s essential to teach children from an early age how they can make healthy choices. Healthy eating habits are crucial for the development of a healthy self-image and high morale and mental health. But what happens if your child has never been exposed to fresh food? The consequences could be much more severe than just being overweight!
Some studies show that children who grow up without good nutrition during childhood tend not only develop chronic diseases as adults but also lower levels in their emotional well-being, which leads them down an unhappy path toward illness or even depression.
With all these risks, it’s crucial you take charge by providing nutritious meals with variety so they will feel full faster and fuel their growing bodies with rich nutrients instead of empty calories that slowly make us sick.
First….a few nutrition facts.
Did you know our diet not only fuels our body, it also impacts and affects our moods, thoughts, and emotion regulation?
It’s true. A healthy balanced diet helps lower anxiety, helps mood swings, and overall mental well-being.
Did you know that sugar is added to most processed foods at the grocery store?
Another fact. Added sugar makes foods more appealing. And once our tongues and bodies are adapted to all that sugar, we have difficulties enjoying foods with less of it.
Did you know sugar is highly addictive, more so than opioid drugs?
Shocking truth to many.
Did you know that sugar, artificial flavors, and colors found in many favorite foods are linked to causing ADHD-like behaviors in children who don’t have ADHD?
Sad but true.
Check out these healthy eating habits that can benefit your children:
- Lead by example.
As parents, we must take responsibility for their future health by modeling the behaviors that are most important to emulate. The old saying, “Do as I say and not as I do,” couldn’t be further from the truth. Our children learn habits from watching us. If we have an unhealthy diet, most likely, so will they. So if you want to enjoy life with your children and teach them to eat healthily, demonstrate what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
- Read the labels.
When training to become a health coach, I was taught that reading ingredients is much more valuable than calories. Many of the foods we consume have toxic substances referred to by many health advocates as “Cancer-Enhancers.” Avoiding processed meals can be one way for you to teach your family about healthy eating habits.
- Help them make healthy food choices instead of forcing them.
Make it your goal to have a variety of nutritious foods available at home. This practice will help your children learn how to make healthier food choices. It is easier to start this practice when they are babies while they are naturally curious about food and put everything in their mouths anyway.
Something I learned in child development was when teaching your child to broaden their palate, offer a variety. You can do this by giving them pieces from different food groups in various colors and textures or letting the little one explore what’s on his plate without guidance from you first!
Instead of serving meals with soda, try serving meals with water or fresh homemade juice. (Natural sugar should still be monitored so be mindful) For even less sugar, try fruit-infused water. It’s healthy, kids enjoy making it themselves, and it adds a little flavor. Even cucumbers taste delicious infused in water with added health benefits.
Instead of sugary cereal, offer fresh fruits at breakfast or even along with dinner. Eggs, greek yogurt and oatmeal are other healthier alternatives. Smoothies offer a tricky way to add vegetables without them knowing!
Get creative with healthy homemade snacks. If you have an oven, you can easily make healthy fruit rollups without toxic substances and artificial colors. Another favorite my kids like is homemade popsicles. We add fresh fruit and fill it with flavored water, plain water and even yogurt.
Ultimately, limiting junk food starts at the grocery store. If it’s not in the pantry, it won’t be eaten.
- Avoid eating out too often.
It’s no secret that juggling a busy work schedule, taking care of kids and running your home can be exhausting. It is all too convenient to stop off at the closest drive-thru. But don’t let the hustle keep you from cooking at home often- it is important for both our health and budgeting purposes.
Meal planning and meal prepping will help, and crockpots and pressure cookers can be your best friend when time is limited.
Another trick to avoiding fast food is having a steady supply of healthy snacks. Kids (and parents) are often cranky when hungry so keep some trail mix, plain popcorn or crackers will tame the hunger pains.
- Shop and cook with them.
Take your children along when shopping for groceries. Teach them the benefits of having healthy food options. These actions give them a perfect opportunity to learn about healthy nutrition. Not only will this provide them with a sense of achievement, but they are also generally more willing to eat foods they help prepare.
- Have meals together as a family regularly.
Always make it a point to eat with your kids at least once a day. Use that time to have friendly conversations, talk about your days and spend quality time together. (WITHOUT ELECTRONICS). Believe it or not, the old tradition of eating together creates a healthy family bond.
- Try not to use food as a punishment OR reward.
We’ve all seen the old TV shows of parents sending their kids to bed without dinner. This is not a good idea. This can lead your children to fear that they will not get sufficient food and can create poor eating habits such as gorging or binge eating.
The same goes for using food as a reward. Offering sweets after a big game, a broken heart or as a bribe to stay quiet in the waiting room, can lead our children to emotional eating, a severe problem of Americans.
- Supply their lunch for school.
If a healthy school-provided lunch is not an option, prepare their lunch for them. PB&J is an all-time favorite and can be a better alternative to the chicken nuggets or pizza offered at school. Turkey wraps, pinwheels, carrots and ranch, celery and peanut butter, are just a couple of healthy food options.
Bento boxes can be inexpensive and offer an easy way to serve a variety of foods as well as a way to prep ahead of time.
- Avoid eating while watching TV.
TV is a favorite pastime for many. However, watching TV while eating enables boredom eating (another form of emotional eating) as well as making it difficult to pay attention to feelings of fullness which can lead to overeating. This causes the stomach to stretch and get bigger, leading to more food required to feel full.
Eating in front of the television also slows the metabolic rate, causing the food to digest slowly and fat burn slowly, leading to unhealthy weight gain. Try to eat only in the dining room or kitchen without the distraction of electronics.
I hope this article has inspired you to prioritize healthy eating habits for your children. By establishing good eating habits at an early age, you are setting them up for a lifetime of health and wellness. If you’d like more personalized advice and support in creating a healthy lifestyle for your family, I offer a 1:1 coaching service that can help parenthood be less stressful.
Thanks for reading, and happy feeding!