Kids can be notoriously picky eaters and just because you’ve packed them a nutritious lunch, doesn’t mean they’ll eat it. There are all kinds of blog posts about making fun lunches that kids will actually eat. If your child is a picky eater, you’ve probably perused those articles thousands of times in hopes of landing on just the right options for your child. We understand childhood nutrition is crucial to their development, but what we don’t always think about is how to help our children establish healthy attitudes towards food. To that end, here are a few tips for helping your child develop long-term healthy eating habits.
Be A Role Model
It should come as no surprise that developing healthy eating habits in your child starts with you as a parent. Parents need to model the healthy eating habits they want to instill. If your child sees you consistently eat a nutritious variety of foods and limit your intake of sweets, they’ll be more likely to follow suit. It’s essential to demonstrate a positive attitude towards healthy eating. If you expect your child to eat their vegetables, then you need to set the example and make sure they see you eating yours.
Family meals provide you with opportunities to model healthy attitudes towards food. Use the time together to ask about your child’s day. Doing so not only makes family mealtime enjoyable but allows children to associate family meals with the positive feelings of being a valued and respected member of the family.
No one wins if mealtime is a constant battle. Never force your child to eat everything on their plate. Doing so can be detrimental to establishing healthy eating habits. If children feel they are being punished for not eating certain foods, they will associate eating with stress. Instead of forcing your child to eat, allow them to choose from what’s available on the table. You don’t need to cater to your child either. Serve the meal you want to serve and allow them a choice of which items they eat. If you want to broaden your child’s palate, you can establish a two-bites rule. They may not have to eat all of it, but they should at least taste new foods.
Encourage your child to take their time eating. Children can more easily differentiate hunger from fullness if they eat slowly. Asking a child to wait a bit before having a second serving will allow their brains time to register fullness and can prevent overeating.
Guide Choices Rather than Outlawing Certain Foods
Often forbidding certain foods only makes those foods more tempting. Instead, try offering a wide range of healthy meal and snack options from which to choose. Limiting the amount of junk food in your home is also beneficial.
Have your child participate in grocery shopping and meal preparation. Preparing a list and going grocery shopping with you can be an opportunity for your child to express their food preferences. Show your child how to make healthy decisions about food choices. Often, even picky eaters are more likely to try foods they’ve helped to prepare. Cooking with your child not only teaches them valuable skills but can encourage them to try new things.
Not all snacking is bad; planned snacks that don’t interfere with meals can be part of a nutritious diet. Allow your child to choose from a few healthy snack options. It can be as simple as placing a bowl with a variety of fruit on the kitchen table. It’s best to allow snacks to be eaten only in certain areas of your home. Eating in front of the television can distract your child from recognizing feelings of fullness and lead to overeating.
Kids will learn to make wise decisions about healthy eating when they have a positive role model to guide them. Eating meals together, ensuring that you provide a healthy balance of nutritious foods, and involving your child in preparing meals can go a long way in establishing healthy habits that will last for a lifetime.