Teaching children good nutritional habits at a young age is a valuable lesson they will carry with them as they grow into adults. Just teaching a child to cut up an apple with a small, sharp paring knife can form a lasting habit.
A healthy and active lifestyle that includes a balanced and nutritious diet will help children to grow, develop, feel good about themselves, and even improve how well they do academically. As your children grow into teenagers and adults, eating properly is extremely important to avoid certain health hazards such as childhood obesity, delayed puberty, nutrient deficiencies and dehydration, menstrual irregularities, and an increased risk for injuries.
Creating an environment with a healthy attitude towards food is one of the most important steps you can take as a parent to ensure the health of your growing child. Following are some simple tips to encourage your children to make healthy choices and form good nutritional habits.
Keep healthy snacks available. Children love to snack and they love convenience. They will eat whatever is available to them. If you stock your house with junk food and unhealthy choices, this is what your kids will snack on. If you place a bowl of fruit out on the table within reach, chances are your child will grab from this to munch on. Remember, whatever you buy and stock your house with; your children are going to eat. Keep simple snacks on hand that are healthy such as apple slices, yogurt, and vegetable sticks like carrots or celery. Also keep in mind that your actions set the example. If your kids see you eating potato chips, they will want chips. If you eat healthy and choose an apple for a snack, you’re setting the example for your children.
Don’t place restrictions on food. Instead, choose to only shop for and stock up on healthier options. Children will always want to do what is considered taboo, and given the chance to have cookies or cakes at someone else’s house when they’re not allowed to at home, they’ll binge. This could cause more serious eating issues later in life. Instead of banning food, have a conversation with your children about making wise choices. Have a special day once a week, or once a month, where treats are allowed. Talk to your kids about moderation. It’s not about denying yourself; it’s about eating healthy and having treats on rare occasions.
Refrain from using food as a reward. This can cause an association to certain foods that can potentially cause eating disorders later in life. Try not to associate certain foods with good behavior or with bad feelings. You definitely don’t want to teach your children that eating something unhealthy is a good way of dealing with disappointments or sad emotions.
Above all else, praise every single healthy choice you witness your child making. Children love to receive praise. If snacking on an apple will win a smile from Mom, chances are they’ll choose the apple for a snack.
By following these simple tips, you and your children are well on the way to a healthier lifestyle.