I am amazed at how many parents try and change how they eat but continue to allow their kids to eat unhealthy. First this is not a McDonald’s/fast food bashing post, because you can eat just as unhealthy at any restaurant. Eating out with kids will be another post soon. I am talking about what you buy at the store and keep in your cabinets on a REGULAR basis. If any adult is struggling with their weight or health issues they usually seek out a “diet”. A Diet is a temporary fix to a major life long problem. If we as adults are struggling now and how we eat is causing problems then how will this effect our kids in the future, or is it effecting them now? I remember only one overweight child in my whole elementary school growing up, now a majority of students in my daughter’s school have weight issues. Yes, not being as active, watching to much TV and playing video games all play into this too. Frankly my kids do not get as much outside time as I did growing up and they watch more TV then I did, my parents didn’t even have cable until I moved out at 19 years old. I encourage my kids to be outside when possible, or just play so we try and limit the electronic face time, but they are not as active I would like them to be but they do not have any health or weight issues. That is because I do not allow them to eat crap all day long. Thus, my point is that diet is the bigger issue with our children.
So how do we change our FAMILY”S habits?
This is a big under taking. Its not going to be easy, nothing good in life is. But it will have huge rewards that will carry on for generations to come.
The first thing you need to do is talk with your kids. Now these (many, everyday) conversation will of course be based on their age and what they can understand.
Babies are easy- just don’t feed them it and they wont crave it. But watch your self and how you introduce and respond to food yourself. Our reaction guides how our children will feel about a certain food. Keep offering them healthy colorful foods, sometimes it takes many taste to like something. Keep smiling and saying “yummy”, don’t force them to eat anything.
Toddles/Pre School/Elementary aged kids are harder to change, especially if you have gotten in the habit of feeding them chips, cookies, and sweets regularly.
* Start by making food fun for them. Fill their plates with color, Make face/picture designs with the food on their plates. Give them hummus to dip things in or make your own dressing at home.
* Have them help as much as they can. Have them pick out things at the store by color. “I need something Green with leaves, can you help me pick?” give them options to choose from. Have them pull things out of fridge or wash them, let them watch you cut fruits and veggies up. Have older kids make the grocery list, look for recipes or pick out a new food to try. Get them involved in what is happening and they wont resist as much.
* Talk to them about foods that give us energy and help us feel good. Don’t bring weight, or the word Fat into your conversations. Its all about Health!
* If they don’t like something its OK!!! Say “I appreciate you trying it and its ok if you don’t care for it”. Try making it a different way another time, and let them know “I remember you didn’t care for this before but I cooked it differently and think you might like it.”
* Have them make a list or cut out photos of foods that are good for them and make them healthy, one for foods that are not good for them to eat, and a third for food you can eat every so often as a treat. When you are deciding what foods go on what list talk about them or look at the nutrition facts, look at the ingredients. This is great so when they are begging for Pop Tarts at the grocery store you can ask them what list they put it on, if its on the “not good to eat list” then it can’t be bought or if it never made your list, have them look at the box talk about it and see what they decide. Let them know “I really like how those taste too, but what list did you or would you put those on?” This way your are not telling them “NO” they get to decide. Also look at the packaging and how things are marketed, point this out to them so they realize it. For example Fruit snacks look healthy they are made with fruit right? Have them compare that to a real apple. Ask them what fills them up, what provides good vitamins and fiber the natural way. Ask them questions and Get them thinking!
Teenagers/ Young adult. I would do everything I mentioned above but on a bigger more in-depth level. You will also have the friends/peer issues to deal with. Encourage them to be leaders in health with their friends. Ask questions, LISTEN, Ask Questions, don’t tel them what to think or believe, Ask them questions and Get them thinking!
DON’T FORCE FEED YOUR KIDS! Don’t make kids clear their plate. When you do this you encourages over eating. Dish them small portions. Ask them to try a bit of everything. Tell them what order to eat foods in, save fruit and treats for after meals so they eat the veggies and protein, complex carbs first. Kids go through spurts of eating everything in sight to barley eating anything. This is a normal cycle. Of course look for clues if they are dehydrated, sick or need to see a doctor but otherwise its a normal cycle to eat like this. If they take two bites at dinner, just tell them “Ill put it in the fridge, so if your hungry latter you can eat it.” give them that and not other snacks latter. If they don’t like something that fine but I’m sure they will be able to eat something if you give them a verity of options at each meal. Only introduce one new thing at a time so if they don’t like it they still have things to eat. Be patient and encouraging. Praise on eating healthy not if they finished all their food.
Strive to be better then you were, not perfection. We are parents, we have kids, perfect is IMPOSSIBLE!)
I started making my boys lunch boxes when I pack my daughter’s lunch in the morning. This has cut down on prep time for me and they love the little divided boxes.
This is my son Kai and his Kale salad he wanted. His favorite dressing will be coming soon in a post!