At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we feel strongly that helping your kids make smart, nutritious food choices, now and throughout their lives, is one of the most important things you can do to ensure their ongoing well-being. Yes, even in today’s fast food/takeout world, it is possible for kids to have a good relationship with healthy food!
Of course, we can’t promise these tips will turn picky eaters into fruit and vegetable lovers who never touch a potato chip. But hopefully what they will do is show you some ways to help your kids care about what they eat, today and tomorrow.
10 tips for getting kids to build wise food habits
There are probably as many ways to teach your children to make healthy food choices as there are types of food. Here are 10 tips from Hudson Valley Magazine (February 2018) that we found especially helpful.
Introduce healthy foods that your kids already like (or might learn to like).
Here are some ideas to try:
- add blueberries or strawberries to pancakes
- make or buy carrot muffins
- put apples or raisins on top of cereal
- add grapes, apples and nuts (if no allergy) to chicken salad
- mix peas and carrots into rice
- make a salad with cucumbers, green/red peppers and tomatoes
Include your kids in the cooking process.
If your kids are involved in all stages of preparing a meal, from grocery shopping to cooking to serving the final product, they’ll have a stake in the meal and hopefully will be more likely to eat it.
If you don’t buy unhealthy foods, your kids can’t eat them (at home anyway).
Skip the empty calories and sweets (chips, cookies, candy) and instead, stock up on apples, cucumbers, yogurt, protein bars, carrots, cheese, whole grain crackers and popcorn. When they’re thirsty, offer water instead of soda or other sugary, flavored drinks.
Have healthy snacks ready when they get home from school.
Most kids are hungry when they get home after a day of classes. Instead of processed foods, offer them easy-to-pick-up healthy snacks as mentioned above: apples, cucumbers, yogurt, protein bars, carrots, cheese, whole grain crackers and popcorn.
Ditch the “clean your plate” rule
Kids know when they’re full so try not to force them to eat more than they’re comfortable with. Childhood obesity remains a major problem—more than 12 million children are obese in America, which is 1 out of every 6 kids—and overeating is one of the prime causes.
Encourage your kids to eat the colors on their plate.
Food that’s all the same color, especially if it’s white, not only lacks visual appeal but nutrients, too. Eating a variety of brightly colored foods not only ensures better nutrition but introduces your child to a variety of tastes and textures.
Don’t cut out treats altogether.
Remember, everything in moderation. It’s not the end of the world if your child craves ice cream or cookies or French fries. Just try to limit them and treat them like once-in-a-while indulgences. Besides, if you deny your kids sweets, soda or junk food altogether, chances are they will overindulge or binge when they do get them.
Try to eat around a table rather than in front of the TV.
Eating together as a family is a valuable time to learn what’s going on in everyone’s lives, such as a big test coming up, yesterday’s game, vacation plans or Mom’s new job. Also, TV is distracting, easily causing kids to overeat because they’re so absorbed with what’s on the screen.
Praise healthy choices.
Give your kids lots of praise when they do choose healthy foods over less healthy ones. That’s an important step toward lifelong health!
Be a good role model.
One of the best ways to get your kids to eat healthy is to model that behavior yourself. You can’t expect them to choose spinach over chips if you’ve constantly got your hand in the chip bag. Practice what you preach and shop, cook and eat healthy yourself. Then everybody benefits!
Download “Simple Cooking with Heart for Kids” from American Heart Association
To help kickstart young people’s interest in healthy eating, the American Heart Association has created a demonstration guide for cooking healthy meals with and for your kids. It offers simple and nutritious kid-friendly recipes, as well as a 1-minute how-to video. Download it here.
For more tips and advice on healthy eating, please come see us
If you’d like to know more about how to help your child (and maybe yourself) choose ways to live a healthy lifestyle, or any topic regarding raising healthy kids, please make an appointment with Westchester Health Pediatrics to come in and talk to one of our pediatricians. We have years of experience with raising healthy kids and are here to help you with yours in any way we can. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.