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Instilling strong eating habits in your child is important for many reasons. Healthy eating cannot only help them keep up an ideal weight but can promote normal growth and stimulate their immune system. Teaching healthy food habits when they are young will help them to maintain these attitudes when they are older. Use these seven simple tips to teach your child good food habits and steer them toward a healthy relationship with the food that they eat.
Model the Correct Behavior
In order to teach your child about the importance of nutritious food, you should set a good example for them. Make delicious, mineral-rich foods that encompass a variety of cuisines and techniques. Show your child that it is fun to enjoy adventurous food and model healthy snacking behaviors. Choose fresh vegetables to snack on and your child will both see how much you like them and will hear the crunch that they offer.
Establish a Mealtime Routine
It is important to have meals only at set times. Not only will this help your child to regulate their hunger, but it will make all the food that you eat into an event. If your child needs snacks between meals, choose healthy late night snacks that they can indulge in before bed. Make healthy snacks readily available throughout the day to keep them fuller for longer.
Go Shopping Together
Taking your child with you when you go grocery shopping can teach them a lot of important life lessons. Not only can they learn where their food comes from, but it is also a great way to teach them about the value of a dollar. Your children can understand how to make nutritious choices and they can decide on what they want to eat. Grocery shopping with your child cannot only help them understand how their food choices impact them but can lead to better choices in the future.
Listen to Your Child’s Input
Setting up an eating schedule is important, but do not make it extremely rigid. If your child complains of hunger, you should have healthy snacks available to them at all times. Similarly, you should ask for their opinion on what you will eat for the next meal. For example, give them a choice between several nutritious vegetables and help them make a smart choice.
Do Not Use Food as a Reward
A lot of people use favorite treats or comfort foods as a reward for good behavior or to show a child their love. Instead, use hugs and words of affirmation to comfort your child. Using food or sweets can cause them not to eat their meals, knowing that with good behavior they can get a dessert as a “replacement food.” They will equate treats or desserts with good behavior and place far too much value upon them.
Keep Mealtimes for Eating
These days, it is common to multitask and grab bits of food when you can. It is crucial to keep mealtimes just for meals and avoid stress. Limit screen time when you sit down at the table. Put phones away. Do not turn the television on. Postpone all work-related phone calls and emails until after your meal. This will make the meals more special and allow your family to focus on one another and not on outside distractions.
Be Innovative When You Are Cooking
If you are preparing meals for the whole family, it is important not to be a “short-order cook” for a picky child. Instead, make the same food for everyone, but customize it to appeal to the child. Use cookie cutters to cut food into fun shapes that will appeal to young children. Take a basic recipe and call it (your child’s name) food. They will feel like it belongs to them and will make them excited to eat it. If your child loves a store-bought treat, consider making your own version from healthy ingredients.
Pair these fun eating tips with a healthy dose of physical activity that will teach your child all about how to engage in healthy living.