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How to Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy

We all know the importance of healthy eating. It keeps our bodies and minds functioning and in shape. A healthy diet is essential for the physical and physiological development of children, but as a lot of parents know, kids are not always willing to try healthy foods! In a world where chips, cookies, and sweets are cheap and tempting, parents sometimes find so hard to convince their children to try new, healthier options. Our guide gives some top tips on how to do just that.

Get them involved in the cooking process

When you allow your child to get in on the cooking process, they become more interested in eating their creation. It’s an activity that is tons of fun for them. This process can start even at the grocery, enlisting your child’s help to find the right ingredients. They will love how it is almost like a scavenger hunt. When it comes to cooking, you only need to keep it simple. Let your child stir a bowl of ingredients, or if making pizzas, they will love putting the toppings on themselves. It can be something as simple as putting cheese on top of a casserole. Any involvement at all will be helpful!

Make food fun

You don’t have to let your child get involved with cooking every single time. The times where you’re prepping food on your own, make colorful, fun dishes that will appeal to kids. This doesn’t have to be complicated and is sometimes only a matter of rearranging the food to make shapes and add more fruit and vegetables for lots of colors. Make the fruit and vegetables into a smiley face or rainbow. Cut the sandwich into a heart or another fun shape. A plate that makes you smile is sure to encourage healthy eating in children!

Give a (healthy) choice

This does not mean you need to cook different meals for everyone (which you shouldn’t be doing anyways!) Some parents like to set the table out American style, where you help yourself. All of their choices will be in front of them, and building their own meal can be another enjoyable activity. It’s good to keep food choices as something familiar while introducing one or two new things a week.

Encourage and praise healthy choices

It’s always good to give reinforcement when a good choice has been made. Your child will love knowing they picked something not only delicious but good for you too! This doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Just a smile and a simple acknowledgment go a long way.

Be an example

Actions really do speak louder than words. Your kids will catch on with your own relationship with food, so be sure you set the right example by also opting for healthier choices. If going out for the day, be sure to pack good snacks for both you and your child.

Know that treats are okay!

There’s no reason why you can’t have a treat now and again! Restricting food can lead to bad food behaviors later in life. After all, you’re trying to teach that it’s all about finding the right balance. This may be as an occasional sugary dessert like cake, especially if celebrating someone’s birthday or even a meal out with the family. This isn’t something that should be given as a reward though for the reasons laid out below.

Don’t use food as a reward

Using food as a reward will undermine all the effort put into encouraging your child to make healthy choices. Studies have shown that this can lead to overeating and also to eat when they aren’t hungry because this is the reward, take it or leave it. It also sends the wrong message about foods and moods. For example, if you’re feeling happy and are proud of yourself, then you deserve a chocolate bar. This isn’t the message we want to be sending.

Keep mealtimes distraction-free

Sitting at the table, with no televisions, tablets, or other electronics, together at set times will help strengthen the child’s relationship with food and with each other. It’s good to keep a routine as well. You child will know that this is the time to eat and will focus more on food and family than anything else. You can also ask them to help set the table with something simple like laid our spoons or napkins. Dinner time is the ultimate family time after a busy day and has also shown to reduce bad behaviors.

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