Getting your kids to eat healthy can at times be a task. However, if you take that extra effort then you can make sure your kids grow up to be healthy adults with healthy eating habits.
Before we tell you how you can help your children eat better, here’s a gentle reminder that what children see is typically what children do. So first and foremost thing to do is become a good role model. When your children see you enjoying healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc. the chances of them enjoying the same things are high. Also whenever possible share a meal with your child. When they see you enjoy healthy food, they will realize that they can like them too.
So parents, don’t fret. Nothing will change overnight. Making minor changes will do a world of good. So take a look at 10 ways to get your children to eat better.
- Chalk out a schedule: Kids, like most adults, need to eat every three hours. This includes three major meals and two small meals. Plan a schedule around this to ensure that you don’t keep your child hungry at any given point in time. Once you plan a schedule make sure you execute it on time. Any delay may make him/her cranky.
- Balance is the key: The child’s meal doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s important to have a balanced meal. Obviously we’re not telling you to feed your kid with boring and tasteless food. But ensure you have the carbs, protein and fat in place. Look up over the internet to find a list of delicious healthy recipes. Try different things, use different coloured food. Make it fun and keep the balance intact.
- Stop being a food forcer: What most parents fail to understand is that kids hate things that are forced upon them. If you tell your child to keep eating their apple on time, the chance of him/her not doing it is high. Children resist such things and hence it’s important you take a neutral stand. Instead of forcing them to eat certain foods, educate them on why it’s important to eat them. Talk to them about eating right and about making the right choices. It will work better.
- Introduce new foods slowly: Don’t expect children to jump on to a healthy eating pattern overnight. So the key is to introduce foods slowly and keep introducing news foods based on their reactions. You need to give children time to experience the different tastes rather than giving them an overwhelming feeling of being overfed. And if your child doesn’t like a particular food, then try and experiment with the recipe for them to acquire the taste. The key is to be patient.
- Make healthy dips for those veggies: Most parents complain that their kids don’t eat vegetables, especially the healthy carrots and cucumbers etc. One way to deal with this issue is to make healthy dips to serve along these veggies. Experiment with yoghurt-based dips or salsas or even something as delicious as hummus. It will make that plate of thinly cut carrots more appealing and inviting.
- Make mornings count at all times: Most Indian families start their day with a hot cup of tea or coffee and leave breakfast for a little later. So, kids also emulate their parents and get into this habit. Fix that at an early age. Make breakfast as a priority. Healthy breakfast will set the tempo of their day and will restrict them from binging on all the junk. Bring in a lot of variety in this meal. You can introduce some fun and tasty home-made jams. Add a couple of almonds and walnuts in their cereals or porridge. The key is to kick start their day with a healthy mix of taste and nutrition.
- Engage your kids in cooking: Involve your children into cooking along with you. If they get involved in preparing the meal, they’ll be more excited and interested in eating the same. Take them along with you to the grocery store. Introduce them to various products and talk about what is good for health and what is not. Allow them to cut the vegetables, if they’re old enough. If they don’t like fruits, then engage them in making various puddings or pies with the fruit they dislike.
- Cut the junk out: Agreed that most parents try and cut the junk out of their children’s daily diet, but what they fail to do is find a tastier replacement. Firstly you have to set an example by cutting on the junk yourself. If junk food won’t be available at home then there is little way your children will eat them. Keep healthier options available at all times. For instance, stock your fridge with fresh fruits and vegetables at all times. Keep some low-fat dairy products like cheese ready to be used in a sandwich.
- Allow treats: Now remember, just because you want your children to eat healthy it doesn’t mean that you take away their treats. By forbidding certain unhealthy food you’re increasing their chance of craving for it. So one way to deal with this is to ask them to win their treat. For instance, ask them to do their homework in a set period of time and promise them a piece of cake for doing so. Make sure they value these treats, so don’t make it a regular feature.
- Adjust their attitude: Children will opt for healthy eating with time. What you need to focus on is building a positive attitude towards food. Make healthy eating a part of their lifestyle and make it fun. Don’t associate it with boring food. Let them explore and discover their own choices. Don’t force anything on them unless it’s required. Also make sure that they have fun with such foods and that has to come from you.
Apart from eating healthy, ensure that you give your kids adequate water to drink. Children at times cannot differential between hunger pangs and their need for water. So ensure that you keep the fluids coming in from time to time. This will not only take care of their untimely hunger pangs, but will also keep them hydrated and less cranky.