Thursday, June 21, 2018

Healthy Habits: How to Instill Healthy Eating Habits That Will Benefit Your Kids for Life

Parents want their children to eat healthily. You know that the right nutrition means that your little ones grow to their potential, have the energy to play and achieve their best at school, and are more likely to fight off childhood illnesses.

But what about the future? You won’t always have control over what goes on their plate or the snacks they choose.

The key is to instil some healthy habits now, so that when they are out in the world by themselves, they make the right choices.

As difficult as this sounds, here are suggestions for five really simple things you can do for your children starting now to set them on the right path to a lifetime of healthy eating.

1.     Practice what you preach
The golden rule of teaching healthy eating to your children is to model it yourself. As your child’s number one role model, you really have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Let’s face it: We’re human, and we probably all have a food weakness of some sort. You know it’s hard to modify bad habits, but if you can make some small changes to your own diet for the better, it will benefit your children’s long-term health as well as your own.

So, if you don’t feel like you’re currently setting the best example, you could start by looking at your own diet. What eating habits do you have that you’d rather not pass onto your children? Pause a moment to think about it. If these are the eating behaviors that children associate with adulthood, as soon as they grow up, leave home and get to make their own rules about food, these are the behaviors they will replicate.

For this reason, it’s probably not fair nor wise in the long-term to have one rule for the children in the house, and another for the parents.

Be sure to keep some treats that you all enjoy; after all, life is for living, but just make sure you only indulge occasionally.

2.     Teach your children to cook 
One of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to healthy eating is convenience food, so the less your child will need to rely on them in adulthood, the better.

Fresh, home-cooked food is nearly always healthier than a shop-bought equivalent. A love of cooking often equates to healthier eating in general, and often an inspired attitude toward exploring new foods.

Young children adore cooking and can help prepare vegetables, weigh ingredients, and mix and stir. While it can be messy getting them involved, these are the basic skills of cooking, and the sooner they learn them, the more ingrained they’ll become. 

Older children can learn about how you add flavor to foods with herbs and spices, and can have fun making their own marinades or sauces.

Ideally, before your child leaves for college, they should know how to prepare vegetables, make some easy and healthy snacks, and make some simple homemade sauces for meat, pasta and rice.

And if you can’t cook much yourself, then learn alongside your kids. Take classes, seek out basic recipe books, and ask friends and family to help you out.

3. Teach your children to shop
Supermarkets rarely do you any favors when it comes to healthy eating. The multipacks of chips and supersize bottles of soda are nearly always more heavily promoted in store than the fresh produce. The vast displays of candy can be hard to overlook.

Children need to learn to ignore these distractions when shopping, however hard it might be. Take opportunities when you can to discuss this.

It’s good to prepare a list before shopping, and tell your children you’re going to stick to this no matter what. Make games out of shopping if you can; try picture lists for younger children, treasure hunt-type games for slightly older kids.

If you can, reward the family for saving money on candy and other treats by putting the saved cash in a jar towards a much-hankered-after toy or special day out so they don’t feel like they are missing out on treats entirely.

4.     Eat as a family as often as possible
Family mealtimes are brilliant in so many ways. As well as providing the chance to share news and enjoy each other’s company, they are a great opportunity to talk about food and healthy eating in a really relaxed way.

There are opportunities to talk about where food comes from, a balanced diet, and healthy-sized portions. Children can ask questions about what’s on their plate, and can watch you enjoy healthy food, making a great example for them.

5.     Train children to be conscious of hunger signals
Lastly, some of the biggest problems affecting human health in the modern world are obesity and overeating. As you might know, this can lead to other health complications and shorter life expectancy.

We have a duty as parents to encourage eating habits that mean our children will fit the normal height and weight percentile at their health checks, and so that they are in optimum health.  
Help your children out by teaching them to pay attention to when they are hungry, and conversely, when they are full.

Family mealtimes can be a great way of modeling that your own appetite can vary, and that you should stop eating when you are full. You can also encourage children not to eat too quickly and thus overeat. If they eat while watching TV, it’s far more likely that children will be distracted and miss their body’s signals to stop eating. 

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