The moment a child starts eating solid food, they start making choices about eating. These choices can have a dramatic effect on a child’s current and future health. Anyone who has dieted can attest to the fact that trying to change these habits later in life is extremely difficult. How do we make sure our children are on the right path to nutritional health?
Most kids are inherently picky eaters. If they had their way they would live off of fries, pizza, and candy. How do we, as parents, introduce them to vegetables, fruits, and other healthy food? The key is to know your child and meet them halfway. Does your little girl have a sweet tooth? Instead of candy, try giving her fruit, raisins, or frozen yogurt. Is your little guy a burger fanatic? Serve him veggie burgers. Keep in mind that the frozen ones at the store are not much healthier than beef burgers. Homemade veggies patties are the way to go.
Kids thrive off routine. Find some healthy recipes they like, or at the very least don’t hate, and keep them in your rotation. Your kids may not eat them at first, but with time and encouragement, they will budge. Always stay stocked up on the healthy snacks your kids like. Nuts, carrot sticks, and yogurt are all good snack choices that kids can learn to enjoy. They’re also easy, low-to-no prep foods you can put in your child’s school lunchbox.
It’s not just about offering nutritional choices. Avoiding fast food, candy, salted snacks, and other unhealthy options is key. A growing body of evidence points to the fact that such foods can activate the same reward centers in the brain as addictive drugs. A child’s brain is not fully developed, and is particularly susceptible to the additive properties of salt, sugar, and fat.
When your kids are old enough to start making their own dietary choices, such as picking out what to eat in the school lunchroom, talk to them about nutrition. Explain the benefits of a healthy diet. Teach them to enjoy things like soda and fast food in moderation. However, don’t just talk; monitor as well. Is your child buying candy with their allowance? Are they stopping into the local burger franchise with friends after school? These are things you need to know about as a parent.
Keeping a healthy home, nutritionally speaking, can be hard. Picking up the phone and ordering takeout after a long day is easy. But stay resolute – the future health of your family may depend on it!