We all know the importance of healthy eating and we all know how important it is to encourage our children to enjoy their daily dose of fruit and veggies. But whilst we all have basic knowledge of what we should and should not eat, getting your child to enjoy healthier options (and stay away from sugary snacks) can be an uphill battle to say the least.
So if you’re struggling to get your kids to finish their greens, try some of these top tips to get them excited about healthy food.
A huge part of maintaining a healthy diet boils down to habit. If you start your child on vegetables and fruit as soon as they’re able to eat solids, then they won’t know any different. If they’ve been eating plenty of veggies since the age of two, they are less likely to reject them when they’re seven years old and a bit more opinionated and independent.
The same goes for avoiding unhealthy foods. There’s nothing wrong with allowing your child to enjoy some treats every now and again, but generally speaking, if you don’t start a habit of giving them chocolate at two years old, they won’t know what they are missing!
Of course, if they do enjoy things like chocolates, just make sure you establish some boundaries early on. You may have to deal with a few tantrums along the way, but it’s important that they know they can’t have it all of the time.
Lead by example
Children learn their behaviour from those around them. So if you want to encourage healthy eating, they need to see you eating and enjoying healthy food. If you don’t already have a healthy diet, it’s a good idea to start implementing one before your child starts eating solids, that way they will see you eating healthily and will be more likely to follow suit when the time comes.
If you struggle with making healthy choices, make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks to hand around the house. Make a habit of preparing carrot, cucumber or pepper sticks and having them ready in the fridge (or in your bag when you’re out and about). Or if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, have plenty of fruit like mangos, melons or strawberries available for a healthy sugar rush.
Make sure your preschool has a nutrition program
You can implement all the healthy habits you like at home, but if your preschool doesn’t do the same, you’re in trouble. You therefore need to make sure that the preschool you choose knows how to encourage kids good eating habits. The best ones have a nutrition program designed to encourage healthy eating habits by teaching children to plant and grow their own food.
The bottom line is, if you eat healthily at home but your kid gets sugary snacks and fun things like chocolate at preschool, it’s pretty much game over.
Get creative & make it fun
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, kids can be stubborn. You can eat all of the carrot sticks in the world in front of them, but sometimes they simply won’t budge. And that’s when you need to get creative.
Luckily, we live in a digital age where we can access thousands of creative and healthy recipes online, so don’t be afraid to search for ideas tried and tested by other parents. Whether it’s making animal shapes out of vegetables or chopping them up and hiding them in other food, there are plenty of ways you can trick your child into healthy eating! And if all else fails, you can always blend vegetables into sauces to ensure they get the nutrients.
Healthy eating is something that should be encouraged from a very early age. But rather than force-feeding vegetables and fruit to your child, you should be establishing and building a healthy relationship with food. Ideally, you want to lead by example and establish healthy eating habits early on, but if all else fails, getting creative and finding ways to sneak veggies and other essentials in to their diet is as good an alternative as any!