Are you looking for ways to encourage healthy eating habits in your child? Raising children who love real food doesn’t come naturally. We all want to teach our children to make better food choices. I am sharing 10 tips today, that can help ensure your child will be choosing healthy food over junk food, even behind your back! I am also sharing an e-book review that can help you at the end of the post.
My son recently came home from school to tell me that his bus had stopped at McDonald’s on their way home. Before I could react, he said, ‘Mom, they bought junk food!’ I asked him what he did. He said, ‘No thank you. I am not a junk food junkie!’
A proud momma moment no doubt, but it got me wondering as to what it was that we were doing right. What made him decide that he could choose to eat healthy?
He had nobody to stop him from choosing a ‘Happy Meal’. He could have ‘enjoyed’ with his friends but instead he chose to be different. Do I have a perfect child?
No. My son is like any ordinary child. He loves making huge messes and he will occasionally have a full meltdown and tantrum episode when he doesn’t get his way but, he is seven years old and he is becoming mature in his thinking. He is learning that he too, can make choices. As his parents, we are always being taught new lessons in parenting.
Here are 10 things that I think that we are doing right.
- Teaching by example: Children learn more by watching you than by hearing you. If you tell a child that smoking is bad for his health while you yourself are holding a cigarette in your hand, do you think he will accept that as the truth?
- Respecting their needs and acknowledging their dislikes: As a family, we have an understanding that we will work as a team. We have our limits but we also respect everyone’s choices no matter what age they are. When one of my children tells us that they don’t like something, we ask them if they would like it with something else. For example a soup with a different type of bread or cheese. If even then they don’t accept it, we let it be. We re-introduce it again after a few days. This taste-ing continues all the time. I have seem my son love a few vegetables he didn’t like earlier this way. My toddlers too have changed their tastes.
- Educating ourselves and talking about what we are learning. We believe that education is a life long thing. We can never know enough. My husband and I love to read books and have been reading to our children from when they were just a few weeks old. It has been one of our ways to spend quality time with them. We don’t always read stories. We just pick up and read whatever they fancy. We discuss about what we have been reading personally too. When the kids are around, they love to hear us talk. They chip in with their two cents and often we have seen the result of our talk is that our kids come to us and tell us what they have learnt too.
- Experimenting and trying new foods. We try a new recipe every Friday. My husband has a rule that ‘every food can be tried atleast once.’ It is after you have tasted it once that you can decide if you want to have it again or not. This rule of trying a new recipe has been in our family from even before we had kids. So now, my kids have learnt to try new things even without us telling them. It is rather very exciting for them and they can’t wait to try what mommy will make on Friday.
- Eating together as a family. We eat together as a family. Even as babies, we had the children at the table in their high chair so that they could see us eat and we would keep an eye on them and still eat in peace. This has helped our children to love food. They see us enjoying food, they want it too.
- Talking about illnesses and consequences from example: My husband and I both have food allergies. We have been sick a few times over the years before those allergies were found. There has been a dramatic change in how we eat because of that. My husband has had to give up gluten and I have given up dairy. We talk about this with our children. They have often heard us say, ‘I cant eat that but I am sure you would love it’. They have also seen us read labels.
- Make it easy to choose healthy over junk. We all need snacks and children need even more variety. A child who has more choice in healthy food will not reach for that packet of chips. Keep healthy snacks available and at your child’s reach so that they can choose themselves. There are many healthy snacks available like fruits, nuts, cheese and yoghurts for them to try. Talk to them about it. Tell them what their choices in healthy and real foods are. I like to keep cut up fresh fruits and vegies in my fridge. Every morning after breakfast, I pull a bowl out so that coming and going, kids can grab some of it. We also have a tradition of using up the remaining fruits to make smoothies in the evening.
- Invite them into the kitchen: We love to cook with our little ones. I have been inviting them to help me since they were as young as 18months old. It started with ‘Can you fetch me…’ and then to ‘Do you want to stir that…?’ and then they started to taste raw vegetables and steal cheese from the kitchen. I admit I have been mad when they broke eggs on my kitchen floor and rubbed flour into their hair but looking back, I think I made beautiful memories. In the process, I think I taught them what an egg looks like from inside too and that flour doesn’t taste all that great.
- Don’t forbid treats and junk food: Most parents don’t let their children have treats at all. If there is no medical reason for it, then giving them treats like sweets and a little sugar, once in a while, isn’t bad. When you tell kids to not have something or you forbid it for them, they will want it more. Don’t make it a big deal.
- Trust them and their choices: If a child comes home to tell you that he had had candy with his friends or tasted cola, don’t belittle them. Don’t make them feel bad about it. They will never come back and tell you about it again. Instead trust their judgement. if you think they shouldn’t have had any, ask them gently if there wasn’t any healthier options. The first time my son came home to tell me he had had ‘cold drinks’ (carbonated) at a party, I asked him if there was nothing healthier. I was surprised he said they only had packaged juices. Talk to your children about reading ingredients and labels too.
I recently read a book ‘Crunch: Put a stop to picky eating and help your kids love vegies’ by Pediatrician Dr. Orlena Kerek. The book perfectly resonated with everything that I believe in. You can give your children the best start in life by choosing to have a positive attitude about food yourself. Her book is a store house of information, encouragement, examples and tips on how you too can teach your child to eat healthy. She has a website, Snotty-Noses.Com, dedicated to raising healthy children. She can help you with picky eaters too. Dr. Orlena also holds online courses to help parents teach their children to love to eat healthy food. Her courses have videos, reading material, a private Facebook group where parents can discuss more healthy-eating ideas and if you choose to do her Platinum course, you will also get a chance to have personal video coaching with her and talk to her personally for the length of the course.
I think Dr. Orlena’s book and her courses are excellent for young parents who want to help their children learn to eat healthy food for life. There are often times in our life when we really need outside help or an expert who can help us deal with our problems. If you have a picky eater or if you think you can help your child better by educating yourself about what healthy food really is and how to present that to your child, this book and those courses are definitely for you.
Here are a few things from thebook that I loved:
- Understanding what healthy really means and how you can include that in your life.
- The book has been written from not just a doctor’s point of view but also from a mom’s point of view. Dr. Orlena is a mum to four children herself and she talks with such empathy and understanding with helpful tips that you can actually feel yourself connecting to her words.
- The book is full of reassurances and is a store house of information that you can really put to use right away.
This book has been recently been launched and there is an inaugural offer on it and the other courses. Hop on over to Dr. Orlena Kerek’s website and read more.
Are you raising children healthy eating habits? Tell us your tips in the comments or hop on over to our Facebook Page. We would love to hear from you!