“Good habits start at home”~ Old English Proverb
How true is this proverb? The home is a kids first platform for social interaction. It enables them to learn the most basic survival, social and interactional skills that stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. As parents therefore it is our prime responsibility to ensure that we set the right example for our kids to follow. And this includes even the right eating patterns and habits. Kids can be difficult and picky about what they eat and so it is up to us as parents to innovate and guide, rather than force them into ‘good’ eating habits. As a parent myself, I have found some ways that have worked for me, in instilling the value of eating right into my own son, so today I will let you in on 8 super simple ways in which you can get your kids interested in eating right.
A family that eats together, eats right
This one is an age old truth, and is more relevant today than ever. In our hectic lives, meal times are probably the only times we get together as a family. Coming together as a family at the dinner table, free of distractions like the television, mobile phones or internet devices, ought to be mandatory. It gives you and your children to interact as individuals, understand each other better and of course gives you the opportunity to ensure that your kids eat right. Eating together strengthens the bond between families and gives the parents a chance to supervise the food that enters their children’s system.
Leading by example
As parents you are your children’s first role models. Kids learn through imitation, and if you love to chill on the couch, just watching the tube and gorging on potato chips, guess what, junior will take this as learning, and most likely develop a similar, unhealthy snacking pattern. As a parent, it is therefore your responsibility to ensure that you eat right in your children’s presence. Ditch the unhealthy processed snacks, switch to healthier options like salads, whole grain snacks, fruits and healthy hydration and your kids will follow suit. Whoever said imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, definitely knew what they were talking about.
Get creative, get colourful
Kids have relatively short attention spans and get bored easily. This applies to ‘boring’ monotone food as well. Get creative with your food decor. Use colourful fruits and veggies to make your food pop, and you will see your kids’ interest levels never flag. Try healthy substitutions, for instance smoothies, sweetened with honey, or maple syrup in order to ensure that they get the nutrition they need. Instead of boring old triangular sandwiches, experiment with the shape, and the filling, in order to get them kicked about the food they’re about to consume. Most importantly have a colourful plate with carrots, peas, potatoes and greens to get them excited, trust me, if it looks good, they will 9 times out of 10 eat it with little fuss.
Don’t force food on them
Children can be obstinate and stubborn, especially when it comes to the foods they hate. Forcing them to eat said food will only bring out the worst in them. Instead, in a rational and friendly you need to persuade them. Children are always open to reason, and being curious they always ask the dreaded question, “WHY?” A little research therefore goes a long way in ensuring that you have their attention, and are equipped to answer their question. Avoid bribing your child with sweets, especially desserts, in order to get them to eat their dinner. By doing this you are incentivising mealtimes with a unhealthy addiction to processed sugar, which will only do them HARM in the long run.
Get them involved in the shopping process
A trip to the market or the shops can be a great learning opportunity for kids. Getting them to help in planning the menu, picking out produce, spices, meat, dairy and fruits is a fantastic way to both educate them in the art of eating right. Not to mention it gives them a thrill and also enables them to make healthy choices about what they are about to consume.
Encourage controlled cheat days
Many nutritionists agree that cheat days, or occasional indulgence in sweets or food that is normally ‘forbidden’ from a meal plan is key in keeping a person motivated in order for said plan to succeed. Supervised cheat days, like a trip to the ice cream parlour or letting them pick up their favourite sweets at the shops, but supervising their intake, is a great way to encourage kids to make the right choices. This also enables a parent to inculcate the values of moderation and portion control to their little ones. And as we know it is these two values that make all the difference.
Mealtimes ought to be sacrosanct
One of the greatest challenges parents face is snacking before mealtimes. ‘Chhoti-chhoti bhook’, as a prominent ready to eat soup brand’s tagline says, and nibbling on treats just before mealtimes, actually ruin a kids appetite and encourages bad eating habits. These ought to be discouraged in a loving yet firm manner. Divert their attention with activities that will keep them distracted, indulge them in healthy things like a fruit, lemonade or coconut water, as often times their systems will confuse hunger for thirst. Mealtimes need to be enforced religiously. Eating at the right time is half the battle in eating right. This will help programme their systems into sending hunger related impulses at the appropriate times.
Stock the refrigerator smartly
Kids often times will indiscriminately eat what they find in the refrigerator. If you’ve overloaded the fridge then with high calorie snacks, aerated beverages, cakes or ice-cream, that’s what will end up in their tummies. So be smart about how you stock your refrigerator. Load it with healthy alternatives like yogurt, low calorie drinks, buttermilk, lassi and cut veggies like carrots. Children are creatures of habit, and good habits are often a matter of what’s placed in front of them. So be healthy in your fridge stocking habits and they will automatically eat healthier!
Children are amazing bundles of energy and joy. Teaching them to eat right is challenging but it is NOT rocket science. It is a matter of being firm but kind, patient and creative. For this and more tips on living healthy, eating right and tweaks on changing your lifestyle, do follow me on Facebook and if you have any queries regarding any of our services, feel free to leave us a comment here. In the interim, live wise, live well, live happy.