“I just love healthy, sugar-free foods, and the mere sight of lightly cooked broccoli and carrots makes my heart leap with joy!” …said no child ever.
Forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest: it’s a sad fact of life, and childhood is no exception. Still, if you want your kid to grow into a healthy adult, you’ll have to start laying down the foundations of healthy eating habits early on.
Now, the task is usually easier said than done, especially if your child is a picky eater who doesn’t want to collaborate on your healthy eating project. In nine out of 10 cases, getting your child to settle down at the dining table during family meals can be mission impossible, let alone cajoling them into wholeheartedly embracing a nutrition system centered on fruit, vegetables and whole grains, with little or no sugar or other tasty ingredients in the mix.
But does this mean you should let your kid have their way at mealtime? Definitely not: you just need to be clever with the way you handle the healthy eating project and find the best ways to make your child’s appetite work for you. To hack healthy eating like a pro, use these guidelines and make your kids fall in love with clean eating in a matter of weeks.
Practice what you preach.
Children copy what they see, so if you have a habit of wolfing down tons of fast food and gallons of pre-sweetened sodas, don’t be surprised to see your mini-me following in your footprints. To make the right habits stick, you’ll need to show your child that healthy eating and physical activity are important by cleaning up your own dietary act and making regular workouts an essential component of your own weekly agenda.
Eat around a fixed mealtime schedule.
A fixed mealtime schedule will help keep appetite spikes and cravings at bay, even for your hangry child. For this reason, it’s critical to devise a meal timetable and ensure your baby or toddler sticks to it religiously to prevent belly rumbles or overeating at ungodly hours of the night. A fixed mealtime schedule is especially important for snacks, as ill-timed munches can result in appetite drops at lunch or dinner.
Limit how much fast food you eat.
Kids love fast food and they’ll gladly swap home-cooked meals for takeout pizza if you let them get away with it. Junk food shouldn’t have a place on a healthy child’s menu, so it’s best to either eliminate junk and fast foods from the menu du jour or at least limit your child’s intake of pre-processed foods rich in sugar, trans fats or other harmful nutrients. If possible, make your child’s meals at home and swap fast food for green alternatives.
Make time in the kitchen family time.
Meal preparation is also important for establishing healthy eating habits, which is why you should include your child in the process. Just letting your kid participate in grocery shopping will provide them with a sense of responsibility and ownership. If to really get them to fall in love with cooking, let them help you when fiddling at the stove: it’ll allow you to spend quality time together and teach your kids a few useful tricks for their adult life.
Mealtime is family time, too.
The family that eats together, stays together, right? If you want your children to value family time as adults, invest in efforts now to make whole-family meals the norm. (As an added bonus, they’ll learn to pass on healthy eating habits to their own kids some day.) Even if you don’t succeed at getting everyone around the dinner table right away, at least get your children to sit at the table during meals instead of watching TV or playing video games.
Go for nutritional variety.
If you loathed your mom’s menu over utter lack of variety, odds are your child will feel the same about dietary monotony, too. To keep your kids hungry for more of the healthy stuff, offer them a variety of home-cooked delights starring their favorite ingredients and consult your little angel about the menu for the week ahead to make the right nutritional habits stick. After all, nutrition should be fun and tasty, not just clean and healthy.
Ready to help your child fall in love with healthy eating? Then you’d better put the tips above to good use without delay: after all, life’s too short for your family to feast on anything but healthy home-made meals. Bon appétit!