5 Tips for fostering healthy eating in your children

By Jessah Shaw, Adv Dip (Nut Med)

If you are anything like myself or other mums I have spoken to, it can certainly be challenging at times to get kids to eat healthy foods. The number of times I have prepared a lovely meal from scratch to have my child outright refuse to eat it or have the tiniest bite and loudly say “yuck!”.  Nevertheless, here are some tips to encourage healthy eating in your children:

1) Have healthy snacks on hand

This is so simple, yet such a game changer. Whenever you leave the house it’s always worth packing a little esky with some healthy snacks such as cucumber/carrot sticks with hummus/guacamole, fruit, yoghurt, homemade bliss balls, boiled eggs, frittata or home-made baked goods. This works three ways as it means you have a healthy food option for your child, you have the ease of having food available no matter where you are, and you also save money. For convenience, a lot of these foods can be prepped in advance and stored in containers in the fridge ready to grab and go. For some healthy bliss ball recipes, please see our recipes: https://www.cabothealth.com.au/?s=balls

2) Get your child involved

One of the best ways to foster healthy eating habits in children is to encourage their independence. Even toddlers can help with meal prep by washing produce, cutting with a kid-safe knife, or healthy baking recipes which allows them to add in measured ingredients, crack eggs and practice their stirring skills. Adjustable learning towers are excellent for allowing your child to safely observe or participate while cooking/baking. This can lead to getting their input re weekly meal planning, allowing them to help with grocery shopping and assist more with meal preparation, particularly as they get older.
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3) Eat dinner as a family

Serve a smaller portion of what you would usually consume for dinner or serve it family-style and let your children pick and choose what they want. Children often mimic their parents’ behaviour, so chances are they will begin to eat most of the food you put in front of them. This may not be possible every day but should be prioritised on weekends. Initially they may only have a little bit or none at all, but with persistence and time they will get used to eating more like how you eat. Not only does this practice foster healthy eating, but also supports their independence and family connection. When introducing new foods always make sure to include one item you know they will eat, offering new foods alone can be overwhelming so it’s important to include a “safe” food.

4) Set an example

While this principle certainly applies outside the kitchen, in this case we are referring to modelling positive attitudes and habits around food. Eat a variety of food and try to avoid negative talk about food or your body (particularly in front of your children). Labelling foods as good or bad can create a toxic mindset and may lead children to experience shame or guilt when eating certain foods. For instance, rather than only letting kids have dessert after they have eaten their main meal, offer a small amount with their meal. Offering dessert after mains or as a special treat will be making kids want dessert more, whereas if you allow a small amount with their main meal this is making it more neutral.

5) Be kind to yourself

Being a parent is not easy and there will be moments when you are extremely frustrated, but it is important to remember you are doing the best you can, and it will get easier. Consistency will pay off and if your kids are predominantly eating healthy foods, this is what really matters. All you can do is choose what foods you are offering and when, and eventually they will begin to eat more of a variety of healthy foods. Especially if you are eating the same foods you are offering to them. Some of life’s pleasures can be going out for ice-cream after the beach or baking cookies together of a weekend. If these times are balanced with nutritious options and plenty of exercise, your children will thrive.

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