While choosing to eat healthy is the first step, getting the rest of the family to follow suit, may be a challenge. I can eat as healthy as I choose, for Stella (3 ½ years-old) and Carter (18 months) this is a whole other story.I know the importance of ensuring that my little ones develop good eating habits at an early age. I am not sure if it is my fault (tracing back to my pregnancy cravings), but they both have quite the sweet tooth. But habits should be formed now because as they get older, they will be harder to break.
Here are some things that I have tried that have proved to have some success with keeping the kids’ eating habits on track:
· Offer healthy choices – If the snack choice consists of chips or rice cakes, it is no surprise that the kids will choose chip. I mean, come on, wouldn’t you? Both of my little ones are old enough to make choices (even if Carter does this simply by pointing and shaking his head). When I allow them to open the pantry for a snack, they find the least healthy item in there. Instead, I will select two things to choose from, like applesauce or a banana, that way, I am happy with whatever they choose. If the kids don’t want either? Then they must not be that hungry
|Crab legs! Who knew the kids would love them!|
· Re-write the kids’ menu – Who says that kids have to have traditional “kid-friendly” food. As soon as mine had teeth, they were eating what hubby and I were eating. They now gobble up things like tofu and salmon and turn their noses up at peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The best part? Mom or dad only has to cook one meal!
· Be the captain of your ship – Who does the grocery shopping in the house? If there is a lot of junk food – it didn’t get there by accident. I remind myself when at the grocery store that if I buy a box of cookies, someone will eat them. The less junk food I buy, the less tempted everyone is to indulge.
· Don’t make the kids “clean their plate” – While this strategy may have been used by our parents, it is not the best practice. Forcing kids to “clean their plate” only makes eating a chore. It also forces kids to eat when they may no longer be hungry. All that teaches them is too overeat and not listen to their bodies.
· Remember that food is not love – I really had to struggle with this one. I am guilty of passing out cookies, baking brownies, or going out for ice cream when Stella has done something good. It is embarrassing because, sometimes, she asks if she has been good and I know that this is a code for wanting a sweet treat. Instead, I have to find other ways to reward her for things. Perhaps it is an extra book before bed or allowing her to choose a game for us to play. Maybe I print out some free pages for her to color or paint. It is hard because a sweet treat is so much less time consuming than the other options but I know, in the end, this is the healthier choice.
If being a parent wasn’t hard enough, taking extra steps to ensure you are raising health-conscious eaters makes it harder. It takes time and planning (as if you didn’t have enough to do). But with the startling rates of childhood obesity and type-2 diabetes, this is not something that we can ignore. Lowering our kids’ risks of these nutrition-related diseases is easier than dealing with a chronically ill one.