Skip The Food Fights: 10 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Healthier
Every single day, families deal with picky eaters both big and small. Mothers constantly struggle with the feeling of guilt about their children’s diets because they know how important it is to feed their kids healthy foods, but they’re just not sure how to do it. It can be just as challenging to teach an adult that junk food is bad for them but trying to convince a child to eat well can be even more of a challenge. Below are 10 tips that will help even the pickiest of eaters to eat healthier.
1. Model Healthy Eating
One of the most important action you can take to help your children eat healthier is for you to eat healthier. Parental modeling has been proven to increase the intake of healthy milk, fruit, and vegetables.
2. Eat Together
Not only are family meals generally more nutritious for children, eating together also offers an opportunity to socialize about food and eating, and model healthy behaviors. Even if it is only twice a week, planning meals into a weekly routine goes a long way toward helping children develop healthier eating habits.
3. Increase Exposure to Healthy Foods
One of the best ways you can help your child develop healthy eating habits is repeatedly exposing them to a wide variety of foods. Just because a child shuns a food once, don’t label it “rejected.” Instead, continue to reintroduce it and expect that it may take some time.
4. Let Them Choose the Portion Size
Several studies suggest that you can empower your kids to let their internal cues of hunger and fullness determine how much they eat by allowing them to choose their own portion sizes.
5. Share Control
Requiring your children to consume a particular food to receive a “reward” such as a dessert is more likely to increase their dislike of the food they are required to eat, while increasing their desire for the typically unhealthy “reward” food. Higher levels of parental control and pressure to eat are also associated with lower fruit and vegetable intake and higher intake of dietary fat.
6. Refuse to be a “Short Order” Cook
Picky eaters can wreak havoc on an enjoyable family meal, compelling some parents to make special accommodations for each child just so everyone will have something that they will eat. You can promote healthier eating by refusing to accommodate special requests, while at the same time making sure to serve at least one healthy food that the child like at each mealtime.
7. Limit T.V. Time
While t.v. viewing has been associated with a variety of negative behaviors including poor school performance and childhood obesity, it is also linked to overall worse nutrition. This may largely be due to the enormous amount of advertising for unhealthy foods like sugary breakfast cereals, soft drinks, salty snack products, and highly processed and fast foods. Exposure to advertisements for food products increases children’s choice of, and preference for, these advertised foods.
8. Exploit Similarities
You should exploit similarities to develop a taste preference for new foods. Once a food is accepted, find similarly colored or flavored “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods a child will eat. For example, if a child likes pumpkin pie, try mashed sweet potatoes, and then mashed carrots.
9. Make Eating Healthy Fun
You can make learning about healthy nutrition and physical activity fun and educational for you children. For example, grow healthy food in the garden or take your kids to the farmer’s market and let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try at home. Try to take a break from the mealtime battles, and take advantage of your child’s wonder of the world to teach a lesson about health and fitness.
10. Skip the Food Fights
The more parents pressure their children to eat certain foods, the less likely they are to develop a taste for them and continue to eat them often as an adult. If you want to get your kids to eat vegetable and other healthy foods because they like them, then you will have to employ different strategies—increasing accessibility and exposure, minimizing the competition, modeling, vowing to not say anything when a child refuses a food, and helping make food taste good, for starters. The most successful parents of healthy eaters opt to skip the food fights.