Helping Your Children Make Their Own Healthy Food Choices

Apr 10

Helping Your Children Make Their Own Healthy Food Choices

By Laura Pearson

It’s a common scenario: a mom disagreeing with her child about eating his broccoli. While we know children should eat their veggies, it’s not always easy to convince them of it. With the right approach, you just might be able to get your child to eat his broccoli after all.

Be Patient and Be Prepared

First, know that it takes time for children to taste new foods and to enjoy them, usually between five and 10 times, according to PBS. Begin by giving him just a taste and be patient, suggests Let’s Move. You may need to offer the food over and over. It also helps to offer the new food with familiar foods. Seeing friends, older siblings, or parents eating the new food can help as well. Try preparing the food in different ways; some children prefer steamed carrots to raw ones. Another option is to make a fruit and veggie smoothie. Furthermore, if you let the child choose which new foods to try, he may be more likely to give them a chance.

Make sure you only stock healthy snacks for your child. PBS advises parents to keep snacks in your child’s reach so he can get it without your help. Also, keep healthy snacks handy when you’re on the go. Good choices include sliced apples, carrot sticks, whole grain crackers, and water bottles.

Teaching Opportunities

Allowing your child to assist you in preparing meals makes memories, teaches him valuable life lessons, and increases the likelihood of him trying the new food. Give him small jobs, such as stirring the ingredients, and always applaud his efforts. PBS also suggests getting your child involved in the meal planning process and grocery shopping. Start off with simple tasks, like choosing between strawberries versus blueberries. Also, begin with simple, no-cook recipes, such as a fruit parfait. Let your child pack his own school lunch.

Once it’s time to eat, let him choose which food to put on his plate and how much to eat. When your child says he’s full, listen. Toddlers and young children will usually eat the correct amount of food, which can fluctuate day by day.

Consider teaching your child where his food comes from. Take him to the farmer’s market or to an actual farm. Let him pick fresh fruits and vegetables from a garden. “Picking berries from a vine can help nurture a lifelong love of good eating and environmental stewardship,” says PBS. An even better idea is to plant a garden with your child. He may be more willing to try a new food he grew himself.

Relax and Enjoy

Focus on each other while you eat. Mealtime should be a relaxing environment. Do not eat in front of the TV or play on your phone at the table. Instead, focus on getting in some family time, talking about fun and happy topics. Breakfast is often hard to keep stress-free, as you are rushing to get to work or get your child to school. Bright Futures recommends preparing breakfast the night before or choosing convenient options, such as whole grain toast, fruits, and yogurts. Also, encourage your child to organize as much as possible the night before to have more time for breakfast. For example, have your child pack his lunch, choose his outfit, and prepare his backpack to cut down on time used to get ready the next morning.

Important Notes

Remember, the earlier you start introducing new foods and encouraging your child to try them, the better. Although you should urge your child to try new foods, don’t lecture or force him, and never punish him for not trying new foods. Helping your child make healthy food choices is important, but you also need to encourage him to drink plenty of water and get the appropriate amount of physical activity.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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