As a parent, you only want what’s best for your kid. And that means doing everything to help your child grow up happy and healthy. From family time to play time or physical activity, to learning and development, it’s a long list to work on every day, but parents will tell you it’s worth it. But getting quality playtime and learning time is only possible when your child’s nutrition and overall health are taken care of. Which is why making healthy eating options available at an early age is crucial.
Benefits of Healthy Eating
- A well-balanced diet can minimize or prevent the risk of serious diseases.
- Eating the right food promotes proper functions of the body, like a healthy digestive system.
- Having strong immunity means fewer missed school days and more time for learning and interacting with others.
- Coupled with regular physical activities, healthy eating aids in improving muscle strength.
- Healthy and well-rested body and mind help enhance cognitive functions including concentration and improve academic performance.
- A happy tummy filled with healthy food can improve your child’s overall mood.
6 Healthy Eating Tips
Start Early but Slowly
Getting the proper nutrition is crucial for child development, so it’s best to start early. Choose locally-based foods for your baby or fresh produce from your neighborhood market. You can puree carrots or broccoli, as well as apples, as a way to introduce your baby to delicious but healthy food. For older babies, you can chop up soft fruits like bananas and peaches. This is when they can already grasp food and practice self-feeding. Reminder: this can and will get messy, but it’s a great way to introduce even more healthy food to your little one.
While starting early is essential, you should acknowledge that it can be an adjustment even for you as an adult. As a kid, you may have encountered a different set of rules at the dining table that you’ve unconsciously brought with you as an adult. So be patient with your kids and with yourself as well. You can start with small changes like adding fresh fruits as snacking options before moving on to making bigger adjustments.
Make it fun
For children, playtime can be everything! If you’re a parent of a toddler, you may have tried different strategies to convince your child to pack away their toys and prepare for bath or bedtime. Encouraging kids to eat healthy may also take a lot of convincing at creativity on your part. Fun eating sets with creatively prepared food help make eating healthy enjoyable, plus it’s a great way to bond with your kid by either explaining the different shapes or making stories out of them.
Simple ways like adding banana bunny ears and strawberry eyes to breakfast pancakes can help spark interest and imagination with your kids. Milkshakes are a perfect summer treat, but can often be too sugary and lack the proper nutrition your kids need for learning and playtime. Try substituting ice cream with frozen fruits like mangoes or berries to make colorful and healthy milkshakes that kids will surely enjoy in the summer.
Even adults have foods that they avoid or swear off eating, no matter how healthy or how much of a trend it is. So instead of forcing a vegetable on your child, try out a few options and see which ones they like the best. This way, you’re also empowering your kid to make better health decisions. You can also pair something they’re already familiar with, like their favorite peanut butter toast, with some sliced bananas or oatmeal with blueberries for extra flavor and color.
Explain and not restrict
Completely restricting any food, unless for very health-threatening reasons (like allergies), is not recommended. Don’t label food as bad, as that can create unhealthy relationships with food and make kids feel bad or guilty when they do eat it. Instead, explain the benefits of healthy eating and eating in moderation. It’s important to not assign unhelpful labels, but instead encourage and empower kids through a basic explanation of nutrition.
Make it a family affair
Parents are in control of what gets lands in the kitchen pantry, so it’s up to you to make better choices from the get-go. Additionally, you should make healthy meals a family bonding time. If you have older kids, they can help you prepare meals. When you sit down at the dining table, enjoy your healthy meals as a family reinforcing that the idea of healthy eating is not only a personal activity, but a positive family experience. Showing your kids that you are also invested in eating healthy help ensure that they see it as something important and not some type of chore.
There are a lot of things to consider when raising a child, and you may not always get it right the first time. In times like these, you shouldn’t stress yourself out too much. Healthy options are increasingly becoming more available not just at local farmers’ markets but also in traditional groceries. Take the time to research or consult with professionals for better options if your child has certain food allergies or intolerances. You can exchange ideas with your circle of friends or online. Information is easily available, so don’t be afraid to reach out and try out new things.
It’s important to note, though, that when encouraging healthy eating, you also have to be mindful of how you discuss health and fitness with your child and even other people. Depending on the child’s age and ability to understand, make sure to steer away from language that promotes unhealthy body image. Instead make healthy eating a positive conversation centered around taking care of your mind and body so it can help you do everyday tasks, including things you love (like sports or learning), not just make you look a certain way. Every member of the family, from adults to children, should aim for health and wellness from the inside out.