By Jasmine Anderson
Being a parent is a tough job on its own. But when you also include our ambitious endeavours to help them become better students, teach them to be good people, to know right from wrong… it starts to seem incredibly difficult, if not almost impossible. The same goes for nurturing good habits, especially when it comes to food. While we can’t help with other difficult parenting tasks, we can share some advice on how to make healthy eating a little easier to teach and ingrain into your child’s every day.
Start them off right
From the moment they start with solid foods, expose your kids to fruits and veggies in their “purest” forms – no sugars, sweeteners, cheese dips or the like. The sooner they familiarize themselves with how food tastes without the added flavour, the lesser the chances of them growing up into fussy eaters. Besides, that is an experimental period for them, where their palate learns which flavours it favours over the others. Sugar is highly addictive and should be given in moderation, if at all.
Don’t become too strict
Simply because you have children doesn’t mean you suddenly have to become a food puritan. Keeping too strict a meal plan is bound to cause problems in your relationship with your child. In many cases, kids from such homes, as soon as they’re given their lunch money, spend it on an armful of potato chips, chocolates, hard candy and more. Your kids will start to feel like they’re missing out, so leave in those trips to McDonalds or Pizza Hut. You’ll do a better job that way, teaching them moderation.
Gauge the portion size
A lot of parents overestimate the amount of food their children can eat. It’s easy to miscalculate when we see them run around all day, expending so much energy. The thing is, they don’t actually need to eat like a pack of wolves. Have a few experimental meals where you’ll eye the number of various food types your child eats. Then use that to plan for smaller meals, but more frequent snacking. Smaller meals are healthier for a developing metabolism anyway.
Do grocery shopping together
Children will hardly eat healthily just because you told them to. They want to know why something is good for them, which is great! That’s why shopping with your kids allows you to teach them how to choose healthily. Write out the shopping list together, and explain it as you go through the aisles. Talk about buying with four food groups in mind, teach them early on that simply because certain foods are pricier doesn’t make them healthier. When it comes to budgeting, teach them how to shop smart: fruit, vegetables, healthy grains and wheat prices can vary greatly, so show them it’s more about the brand than the price itself.
Involve them in the food prep
Believe it or not, kids LOVE being included in grown-up activities (so long as they don’t last forever). Whether it’s to pay the bills, walk the dog, or do grocery shopping – the thing they really enjoy is feeling like an adult and being treated like one. Which is why cooking with your kids can only improve their eating habits. They can learn how to cut up ingredients, properly measure and mix, and which spices make their meals taste so good. It’s not only a great way to nurture a healthy relationship with food but to bond with your child as well.
The last piece of advice…
.. is to just have fun with your kids, and your food! Yes, healthy eating can be stressful for parents, because we suddenly have all this weight on our shoulders to make sure our kids grow strong, active, healthy, with a lot of good habits. And that puts a lot of pressure and stress on something that should be enjoyable and fun. The one crucial thing you need to preach is that food is not punishment, nor is it a sinful indulgence. Food makes us happy, and it should be for them too. So, cut up their veggies in funny shapes, make funny breakfast plates with eggs for googly-eyes, and let them bathe their pancakes in chocolate. They’re still kids, not fitness bloggers, and you’re not their trainer, but a parent who loves them to death.
Jasmine Anderson is a lifestyle and beauty blogger based in Australia.
She is an incurable daydreamer, who finds inspiration in little,
everyday moments. Spending time at her cozy home office with her two
cats, writing her blog, is her favorite thing in the world.