Eating healthy can be hard. Convenience foods have simply become a way of life and time seems to speed up, racing toward the end of the day. Here are three tips on how you can integrate healthier eating into your child’s routine.
Try to have regular family meals:
Spending time together allows everyone to share stories about their day. Connecting over a meal will help to foster a positive relationship with food and make your child less likely to snack on unhealthy things throughout the day. Conversation easily becomes an integral part of mealtime and parents are allowed to model good eating behaviors. Watching your healthy habits will encourage them to make healthy decisions on their own.
If your child doesn’t seem too thrilled about family mealtime, suggest they bring a friend or offer to make them something special. At times, it’s hard for us as parents to find the time to cook each night. With work, carpools, afterschool activities, and every other thing we are trying to cross off our list, the time just isn’t there. Turning Sunday afternoon into meal prep time and inviting your child to be your assistant could be the solution. That will make Meatless Monday’s vegetarian chili so much more delicious for them, knowing they poured (or “dumped” and hopefully only missing a few!) beans into the pot.
And when you’re really crunched for time, I’m sure your child won’t turn up their nose to a fun family takeout meal!
Keep it healthy:
There are a lot of healthy swaps and substitutions that can help diversify your child’s palate. Introducing them to a variety of foods will allow them to develop taste, preferences, and food knowledge. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Fruit and vegetables make excellent snacks! Try apples or celery with peanut butter for added protein.
- It’s easy to swap out proteins in a dish. If you are planning to make beef nachos, you can swap out the beef with turkey (which is a leaner meat and therefore has less fat) or beans (which has the same amount of protein but without the cholesterol and half the calories).
- Whole-grain breads and cereals have more fiber than their more highly processed friends. If your child has a gluten allergy, Canyon Bakehouse or Udi’s can be found in most local markets.
- Stay hydrated! Make water the go to choice, with soda and other sugary drinks saved for special treats.
Avoiding Picky Eating:
It happens, a lot of parents are learning to cope with their picky eaters and are just happy when their child eats “something.” Some common issues you might be dealing with:
- My child will only eat blue foods…
- My child will only eat in front of the TV…
- My child will only eat peanut butter and fluff sandwiches…
- The only vegetable my child will eat are olives on their fingers…
Keep in mind that this is most likely a temporary stage and they will grow out of it (phew)! Pay close attention to what they are communicating with their preferences. Is it a texture issue (seeds, soft, squishy, crumbly) or does it have more to do with color (red, blue, green, light, dark)? While it can be frustrating, try offering solutions in place of criticisms:
- Let your child pick out their own fruits and vegetables at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
- Offer your child a choice for dinner: “Would you like carrots or green beans?”
- Give your child small portions of new foods to try…not big, scary ones that might be off-putting. This will be less intimidating for them, especially if there is only one at a time.
- Name food your child creates or tries for positive reinforcement, such as: Peter’s Perfect Pasta!
Changes don’t always happen overnight, so be patient with both yourself and your child. Keeping food both fun and healthy will help develop long term habits they will take with them everywhere they go.