It’s no secret that kids are picky eaters. They usually want to eat the same things over and over again, only to throw a tantrum when they aren’t given their desired dish. But it’s not their fault. It’s difficult for them to make healthy choices when they haven’t been accustomed to doing so early. Lucky for this bunch, there are plenty of ways to foster healthy eating habits in your child. And it’s not as difficult as you may think. But first, let’s learn why it’s important to develop healthy eating habits at a young age.
Why is it Important to Establish Early Healthy Eating Habits In Children?
When little ones are young, they have a natural inclination to explore the world around them. By being exposed to various foods from an early age, they’ll have a chance to develop an appreciation for the different flavors and textures. But, then, it’s how they figure out what they like and dislike.
When little ones are young, they aren’t able to gauge if a food is too rich or too sweet because they don’t have as much experience as adults with food. And that’s why it’s essential for them to become familiar with the taste of healthy ingredients so that they can make better and firm decisions in later years. If kids can identify the healthy foods they like, they’ll be more likely to eat them.
At Baby Steps Daycare, we understand the importance of encouraging healthy habits in children from as early as possible. For this reason, we made this article to help parents like you foster good healthy eating habits in your children.
How to Explain Healthy Eating Habits to a Child?
Parents need to be consistent when explaining healthy eating habits to their children. They’ll start forming bad eating habits if they’re too young to understand. So there needs to be a good balance between teaching them about proper nutrition and making sure they understand what you’re trying to teach them.
You may consider the following tips to explain eating habits to a child:
- Explain it During Mealtime: A good way of explaining healthy eating habits is through mealtime stories. It’s a lot easier than it sounds because all you have to do is make up a little story about the food items on your plate, and your child will immediately know what everything is supposed to taste like.
- Choose Your Words Carefully – When explaining healthy eating habits, you want to make sure you choose your words carefully. For instance, if the food you’re serving your child is healthy, you may want to avoid using the word “good” or “bad” since these terms are usually taken negatively. Instead, you can use phrases like “tasty” or “delicious.”
- Explain Physical Benefits of Eating Healthy: Healthy eating habits are beneficial for all ages, but parents tend to take it a little easier on kids due to their age. You may want to explain that the foods you’re serving your child are good for them because they contain powerful nutrients. For instance, if you’re feeding your kid orange juice, you can refer to it as “an effective source of Vitamin C.” This will help your child understand what healthy eating habits are all about.
9 Ways to Foster Early Healthy Eating Habits in Your Child
1. Be a Role Model
Kids learn from their parents, whether they realize it or not. And the best way to show them what healthy eating habits are is through your actions. If your kids see you eating a variety of foods at every meal and nurture a sense of self-discipline when it comes to food, they’re going to want to follow your lead. Your example will set a standard that they’ll likely try to work towards.
2. Disguise The Taste of Healthier Foods
Kids are usually pretty good eaters, but they’re bound to throw a fit if you try to switch up their favorite dishes. Don’t let that discourage you; disguise the taste of the new foods you want them to eat. For instance, if they love macaroni and cheese, you can try serving it with vegetables and healthy protein like chicken or beans. You can also serve new fruits and vegetables with dip or other condiments that kids like (like ranch dressing). Once they realize that their favorite foods aren’t going anywhere, they’ll be more open to trying new things.
3. Cook More Home-Cooked Meals
Takeout meals and restaurants have more added ingredients, so preparing food at home can benefit your kids’ health. If you prefer to eat fast food, try not daily. Offer your kids home-cooked meals instead that are healthy. While it’s not always possible, try to stick with the basics like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
4. Get Kids Involved
While you’re cooking, you can involve your kids by letting them help with small tasks like stirring or pouring ingredients into a bowl. They’ll be more likely to eat the food they helped make because it’s their “own” creation. They’re also less likely to complain because it’s what they made, and they’ll feel more proud of the meal overall. It’ll look like they ate dinner you cooked instead of complaining about what you served them. It will set a good precedent for their future meals because it gives them something to look forward to when preparing food.
5. Limit Portion Sizes
Does your child finish every meal with a clean plate? That’s a good thing, but it can also be bad. You and your friends and family mustn’t over-serve your kids at the table. If you do, they’ll likely overeat and not realize when they’re full. It is especially true for snacks since they tend to be healthy and filling. That’s why it’s so important for parents to keep track of portion sizes at all times. Your kids will eat less of each meal if you limit the amount of food on their plates.
6. Don’t Use Food to Punish or Reward Your Kids
“Punish” can have a negative connotation if it’s used as a disciplinary action. Your child may not be expecting this type of reaction from you, so you can scare them away from healthier behaviors by using food as a form of punishment. Withholding food as a punishment may lead kids to worry that they will not eat enough food. For instance, sending kids to bed without dinner may make them think they will go hungry. As a result, they may choose to eat more whenever they get a chance. Similarly, when sweets are used as rewards, kids may think that these snacks are more valuable than any other snacks. For instance, telling kids that they will get their desserts if they eat their vegetables sends the wrong message.
7. Provide Healthy Snacks Available
Treats can be a huge temptation for children to overeat. If you offer treats at every meal, they’ll start eating without eating much of the meal. Instead, ensure your children have nutritious snacks during the day to eat less and be more likely only to eat healthy foods at every meal. Remember, you don’t have to give in and serve treats whenever your kids ask for them. Instead, make sure that you and the rest of the family take turns choosing what snacks you’ll all bring into the house from time to time.
8. Introduce New Foods Slowly
By waiting to introduce new foods, you can better gauge your child’s reaction. For instance, if you’ve never given your child broccoli before, start with something light like acorn squash. Then, make sure that it’s done correctly by cooking it until it becomes soft so they’ll be more likely to enjoy the taste of the food. Then, over time, you can slowly introduce new foods like spinach or sweet potatoes but make sure to space them apart so your kids don’t get overwhelmed with all the new taste combinations.
9. Be Creative with Meals
In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to give in and cut corners when preparing special meals. But taking the time to cook a meal for your kids can be a good way to get them to eat something different. For instance, if your child doesn’t like peas, you can try making a dish that uses peas as a side dish instead of the main course. Or, if you want your child to eat more beets, you can add them to a soup or stew that includes other vegetables they like.
Fostering healthy early eating habits in your child is not as difficult as you think. You need to be creative and flexible and provide an exciting environment for eating healthy foods. That way, they’re more likely to want to eat healthy foods because it’s not a chore for them.
We at Baby Steps Daycare support your every endeavor in helping your child develop healthy eating habits. We understand that you like to give your child a good start in life, and we’re here to help in any way we can. To know more about ways to nurture good habits in children and the other services we offer, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.