The way your child eats now could set the stage for their eating habits when they become an adult. So, helping your children make healthy choices when it comes to food is a great way to ensure that they will lead a healthy lifestyle when they’re no longer living at home. Here are some ways to encourage good behaviors right now.
Reduce sugar intake, especially in the evenings
Who hasn’t used a dessert or a treat as a bribe to get their child to eat their dinner? Well, eating sugar right before bed or within an hour of bedtime can have some serious effects. Sleeplessness, cavity production, and heightened anxiety can all be a result of too much sugar before bed. Try using special time with a parent or an activity they enjoy as a reward for eating a good dinner, instead of sugary snack.
Let them choose….within reason
I know what you’re thinking. If you asked your child what they wanted to eat for every meal, their answer would probably not be something healthy. So, when I say, let them choose, I mean in a controlled environment. Allow them to choose foods from an approved list. For instance, allow them to choose either broccoli with cheese or green beans for their vegetable. That way they feel they have some control over the food they eat. This goes a long way with children under five. If they feel like it was their decision, they are more likely to eat it.
Many communities have farmer’s markets where you can buy from local growers. Not only does this put money into your local economy, but it also ensures that your food wasn’t processed or exposed to harsh chemicals. And the way everything is set up makes it seem like a fun, family event instead of grocery shopping.
Make healthy snacks available
When I was a kid, my mom filled an old chips and salsa platter with healthy snacks and left it out on the counter for us to graze at our leisure. Not only was it accessible, but it was the first thing we saw when we came home from school. It subconsciously made us choose a juicy, red apple over the Oreos in the pantry (most of the time). Sometimes making healthy snacks available is half the battle. I keep a big bowl in our fridge full of cheese sticks, baby carrots, apple slices, pretzels and other healthy snacks so that my kids don’t go looking somewhere else to fill their need to munch.
Make sweet swaps
Another way to help your kids make better choices is to swap out some of the foods they eat with healthier options. You can swap fruit spread for jelly and jams, plain Greek yogurt with a dollop of 100 percent maple syrup for flavored yogurts, and tomato paste for ketchup. Small steps can make a big impact. And your children might not even miss their old standbys.
Jessa is the Editor-in-Chief of Hooray for Family and the mom of three energetic children. She has a BA in Mass Communication/Journalism from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and is a long-time resident of Central Texas. When she isn't writing and editing, she enjoys playing board games with her kids, teaching Sunday school and channeling her creativity into craft projects.