6 Ways to Develop Healthier Eating Habits in Kids
One of the most common complaints from parents of young children is that their kids refuse to eat more than hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. Yet chances are, the reason a child refuses to eat anything else is because parents have relied too heavily on fast, convenient foods. The truth is, kids aren’t born just craving junk foods, so by focusing on better food options, it’s easy to establish healthier eating habits in kids. If you’re looking for ways to help your child eat better, the following 6 recommendations can help you make that happen.
Model Heathy Eating
Healthier choices for kids typically begin with the people who influence them the most: their parents. One of the simplest ways to begin helping your kids understand how to make healthy food choices is to model those behaviors for yourself. That means planning your meals, experimenting with and sampling different types of foods, and keeping a consistent schedule for meals and snacks. To establish a good relationship with foods, be sure to show your kids how proud you are when they try new foods and to talk about eating and bodies in a way that is healthy and productive. A child should never be shamed for food choices or weight, so be sure to talk about your own body in a positive way.
Eat Together as a Family
Research shows that eating dinner together as a family is a great way to establish healthier eating habits in kids. That’s because family dinners give you a chance to sit down together and talk about your day, which reduces stress and overeating, and establishes sensible eating habits for both kids and adults. Eating as a family also builds stronger bonds, creates better lines of communication, and allows you to reinforce that model of healthy eating. It’s a great way to show your kids directly that family mealtimes with good foods are an important part of the day.
Include Your Kids in the Process
A great way to teach your children just how important healthy foods should be is to involve them in meal planning and grocery shopping. When you involve them in the process of planning healthy meals, they develop a deeper understanding of the foods they need for good nutrition. Include your kids by asking them what their favorite meals are. Make a list of their top choices and ask them for their thoughts as you start planning for the week. Consider making theme days, too, like Taco Tuesday or Meatless Monday and get their input while creating the menu for those days. Be sure to talk about the science behind the foods you’re planning — like why protein, fat, and carbohydrates are necessary for fueling and repairing the body — so they have a good understanding about why their choices are so important.
Offer a Variety of Foods
Children need a wide variety of foods to support their growing and developing bodies, including brain development. Think about swapping out your child’s favorite foods with alternatives. For example, if your kiddo likes French fries, consider introducing sweet potato fries. If your child has a favorite color, look for foods of that color that you can introduce into your child’s mealtime. You may even want to consider growing a summer garden where your child can experience growing fresh, healthy foods that can be picked and eaten straight from your yard. Getting your child excited about fresh foods is a great way to train them about healthier options from a young age.
Have Healthy Snacks Readily Available
If you want to encourage healthier eating habit in kids, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of healthy snacks available for times when your kids are hungry. Rather than loading up on convenient, heavily processed foods, you’ll want to shop for nutrient-rich, whole food snacks. Prep your pantry with plenty of nuts, popcorn, raisins, peanut butter, and oatmeal, which are filled with fiber and antioxidants to keep your kids healthy. Fresh carrots, string cheese, yogurt, avocados, bell peppers, and apples are good for gut health and are flavorful while keeping your child’s belly full. Simply having these healthy snacks on hand teaches your child for a lifetime that healthy snacks are an important part of the day.
Start with Breakfast
One of the best ways to teach your child how to eat healthier is by starting their day with a healthy breakfast. Breakfast is important for helping kids have enough energy to get through the day, so starting off the day with nutritious foods is key. Prep for the week by having whole grain bagels and peanut butter available. Boil a week’s worth of eggs for a quick and easy snack before school. Or keep whole grain cereal or frozen waffles available for a fast breakfast filled with fiber. If you prioritize breakfast each morning, you’ll be showing your child it’s important to load up on good nutrients before the day begins. That fact will stay with them well into adulthood.
Choose PALS to Support Your Child’s Education
Teaching healthier eating habit in kids is just the start of setting your child up for future success. You’ll also want to give your child an outstanding educational foundation. That’s where PALS Praise & Leadership Schools comes in. At PALS, our curriculum is designed to help your child flourish well into adulthood. The PALS curriculum has been tailored to your child’s needs. We use consistent routines that build your child’s self-esteem, skills, and moral character. And we teach each child to think, reason, be responsible, achieve, excel, and communicate well. Children thrive and grow within the PALS daycare structure.
To learn more about PALS, we encourage you to tour our classrooms. We offer two campuses in the Peoria area to provide convenience for parents across the greater Peoria region. To get in touch with our North Peoria campus, located at 2327 W Willow Knolls Rd in Peoria IL, call 309-691-4326. Or contact us at our Downtown Peoria campus, 700 NE Greenleaf in Peoria IL, at 309-674-2938. We invite you to schedule a tour and to see how PALS Praise & Leadership Schools will set your child up for a lifetime of success.