Summer time is an excellent time to work on building healthy eating habits with children. Eating patterns built during childhood serve as a foundation for life and can influence brain development, metabolism and overall health.
For parents trying to help their kids live healthy lives, this can be very daunting. The good news is, with just a couple simple strategies you can make a large impact on your kids health and encourage good eating habits for a lifetime of healthy choices
Strategy #1 Choose whole minimally processed foods and cut the sugar.
Sugar disrupts kids natural appetite regulation and contributes to excess body fat , cardiovascular disease, and insulin resistance. Read the labels! When you examine your kids diet and read the labels it can be shocking how much added sugar is in the food they eat. Even cereals, yogurts, and other snacks marked as "healthy" , "natural" or "organic" can be high in added sugar. The good news is small changes can make a big difference! Start by introducing your kids to a less sweet pallet by doing things such mixing plain yogurt in with flavored yogurt or plain granola with sugary cereal or even just diluting fruit juice with water and chocolate milk with regular milk!. Slowly work towards substituting all processed foods with whole natural foods.
Strategy #2 Incorporate fruits and vegetables. Yeah, but how do I get my kid to eat more veggies? The best way to get kids on board with eating more veggies is to include them in the decision process and make them readily available. Take your kids grocery shopping or to the farmers market. Let them choose veggies. Use strategies like "here are three veggie options for dinner, which would you like?" Or "we are having carrots for dinner how would you like them: roasted, boiled or raw? Or "please pick out the ingredients for our salad." For the greatest buy in, get the kids involved in the preparation. When children are involved in the peeling or chopping of veggies they are more likely to eat them. Even the little ones can snap off the ends of green beens or mash avocados. Lastly, prepare vegetables and fruits so they are the easy snack choice. Put cut veggies and fruits at the front of the fridge and make less healthy options hard to get to!
Strategy #3 Eat the right amount. Kids naturally know when they are hungry or not. In order to encourage natural regulation avoid strategies that include bribing or rewarding kids with food. Also avoid setting strict eating rules and labeling foods as good or bad. Let kids stop eating when they are no longer hungry and make healthy choices readily available for snacking. Further encourage your kids to eat slowly and eat together as a family as often as possible!
Strategy #4 Set a good example. Ultimately you are in charge of food choices, meal times, and family routines. Make sure you are buying healthy choices and setting good examples. Work on eating well proportioned meals yourself and encourage your kids to follow suit!
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