Food habits during childhood set the stage for future health. Getting your child to make good food choices, however, is easier said than done. When you’re battling against pervasive food advertisements and a packed schedule that leaves so little time to breathe, let alone cook, takeout just makes sense.
But there are things you can do to improve your child’s eating habits without turning your entire world upside down.
At Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center in Bel Air, Maryland, our focus is on improving your child’s health. It’s a team effort. Here, we share some tips on how you can help your child develop healthy eating habits.
1. Be a good role model
You’re the role model. If you want your kids to make better food choices, it has to start with you. You need to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all of the food groups: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, dairy, and healthy fats.
If you eat healthy, your kids will, too.
2. Start a meal routine
Kids do best when they follow a routine. We know your schedule is packed and sometimes unpredictable. But try to establish set meal and snack times to prevent snack attacks and overeating.
And eat together. Eating as a family enhances your child’s social and emotional well-being. It also gives you an opportunity to talk about the day. But don’t make family meal time last too long, otherwise you might lose your audience. Family meals shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes.
3. Get the kids to help
Kids are more willing to try new foods they helped make. Get your kids involved. Ask them for their input when planning the weekly menu, take them grocery shopping, and have them help you prepare meals.
4. Make water the go-to drink
No doubt you send your kids off to school with a full water bottle, but they may not drink all that much. Dehydration zaps your energy and makes you feel hungry.
When your kids get home from school, give them a tall glass of water. Make it fun and tasty by adding orange or lemon wedges, slices of cucumbers, or cubes of watermelon.
5. Stock up on healthy snacks
Kids need their snacks, but you don’t have to limit their choices to cookies and milk. Stock your kitchen with easy grab-and-go healthy snacks like apples, bananas, cheese sticks, yogurt, 100% whole-grain crackers, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, and nut butters.
Instead of cookies and milk, why not cereal and milk or an apple and cheese? Keep it simple and small, and include at least two food groups.
6. Focus on overall diet
You don’t eat perfectly everyday, and neither do your kids. Don’t beat yourself up on those days you just can’t get dinner done and need to pick up takeout. No single meal is going to ruin all of your efforts. It’s about your overall diet.
And you want to avoid making foods good or bad, which sets your child up for disordered eating. Yes, there are better food choices, but no food is bad. Treats are OK, but just keep portions small.
7. Prioritize breakfast
We know time is tight in the morning, but make sure your kids eat breakfast. Eating breakfast is good for their mood and energy and may help them do better in school. Keep it simple so it’s a routine you can easily fit into your day, like cereal and milk, toast and nut butter, or yogurt and fruit.
When it comes to child nutrition, research shows Americans are doing better, but there’s still a way to go. Let’s work on it together. Call our office or request an appointment online today with the team at Laurel Pediatric & Teen Medical Center.