You probably grew up hearing that you “are what you eat.” Perhaps you say that to your own children today. While certainly none of us, no matter how much we may indulge in junk food, is in danger of sprouting chocolate as hair, the fact is that your body does use the food that you eat to make it, and it can only be as healthful as what you ingest.
So what is a parent to do when their child has developed unhealthy eating habits? How do you get them to eat healthful things? It can be challenging, but there are some tips that can help you make your picky, unhealthy eater a bit more healthful.
Tip 1: Be a positive role model.
The most important thing that you can do to encourage your child to eat a healthful diet is to role model that behavior. You cannot sit on the couch eating chocolate bars and then expect your child to eat the fruits and vegetables that you offer him. Be sure that your child sees you make healthful choices each day. Let them see you eating fresh fruits, veggies, and lean meats. Ensure they see you carefully limiting your portion sizes and avoiding seconds. Show them, through your actions, that sweets are an occasional treat.
One warning, do not make a fuss about any of these things or your child may decide to not do what you are doing just to exert control. Simply eat in a healthy way and let them see this.
Tip 2: Present your child with homemade, healthful snacks.
One way to encourage your child to eat better is to present them with healthful, homemade snacks. Give them a beautiful bowl of mixed berries or a nice, healthful, homemade granola. In fact, encourage your child to help you make these snacks; for many kids making something themselves – or even just cleaning and helping to slice the fruit – can make it much more appealing. So start exchanging your child’s favorite chocolate or cookie with something less sweet, but temptingly homemade. One trick as your child gets used to this: simply tell them that you “ran out” of their favorite sweet treat and make a point of not bothering to get any more, offering them a favorite fruit or less sweet option, such as graham crackers.
Tip 3: Be positive as you guide your child to eat their vegetables.
Being a parent can be frustrating, and you can become annoyed as you encourage your child to eat better, but you need to stay positive. Children respond much better to being gently encouraged to try a healthful food than being ordered to do so. If you force your child in anger they may eat the food, but they will not do so with an open mind. One tactic: tell your child that at every dinner they must try one new food or retry one food that they do not like. In this way, slow and steady may win the race to healthier eating. If you really worry that your child is not eating enough vegetables then try giving them a multi-vitamin once a day. Buying bulk supplements can make this easy and inexpensive. Don’t worry too much if your child won’t eat many vegetables; they will still grow and one day they will learn to love them, or at least tolerate some.
Tip 4: Keep your child active.
Active children always have a good appetite, and they are healthier. In addition, a hungry child is more apt to try, and like, a different food. Your child should get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. This can be playing outside with friends or being involved in sports. But even better, combine your child’s physical activity with some great parent-child time: play some tag, play a game of keeping the balloon from hitting the ground, play some catch – get out there, have fun and exercise together!