Getting your kids started on healthy eating early doesn’t have to be a chore or boring. Here’s a few tips to make it easier for the entire family.
Guest post by Nick Cesare
Anyone who has tried to change up their eating habits has probably been struck by how incredibly difficult it really is. On paper, things like “stop drinking sugary beverages” and “add more green vegetables to your diet” seem like simple suggestions. In practice, however, they turn out to be much harder to carry out than anyone would expect.
Here science has an answer. According to psychologists, eating habits develop very early in life. Once our dietary trends are established in childhood, they end up being very difficult to change. This is why it’s so important to start kids on a healthy, balanced diet early. If we start them on sodas and candy, then we’re just making it harder for our kids to make healthy choices of their own later on in life. Let’s talk about why it’s so important to get kids started early on healthy eating habits and how parents can keep things interesting at the dinner table.
A Healthy Diet is More Important Than Ever
In the past we’ve talked about how millennials are eating healthier. This generational change marks a shift in eating in general away from unhealthy processed foods and back to more traditional ways of eating. Now the focus is on eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and protein. While there are a wide range of competing opinions about exactly what diet is best, there is general agreement that homemade food is ideal. Preparing more meals at home means that you can control exactly what your children eat, keeping them away from mystery ingredients in processed food and added sugar.
The widespread availability of unhealthy processed foods means that thoughtful wholesome eating is more important than ever. According to Bradley University, 36 percent of the adult population in the United States is thought to be obese. Even more shockingly, there are also an estimated 13 million obese children in the country.
The longer we wait to change the diets of our young people, the harder it’s going to be for them to change their eating habits later on down the road. The time for action on children’s health is now and, for many parents, the dinner table is where these battles will be fought.
Tips for Getting Your Kids on the Right Track
Any parent knows that having a goal for your kids and getting them to cooperate in achieving that goal are two vastly different things — it’s easy to have in mind a good meal plan for your kids, but it’s something else entirely to get them to go along with it. If you’re having trouble weaning your kids off of addicting treats and onto healthier food items, here are some things that you can try.
- Get your kids in the kitchen. For the longest time I wouldn’t even think about touching mayonnaise. I would eat my sandwiches dry and dodge tips at any occasion just to steer clear of the white mystery goop. That is, until I made mayonnaise myself. Once I understood that mayo was simply egg, lemon, and oil, I had no problem gobbling it up. The lesson here is this: once kids understand what it is that they’re eating, they are likely to be less afraid of it. Plus, food that you make yourself almost always tastes better.
- Combine new, healthier items with old favorites into awesome fusion dishes. Find ways of adding healthy twists to dishes that your kids already love. For example, you can use your kids’ love of burgers to introduce them to more heart-healthy proteins like tuna burgers for dinner.
- Expand their palettes by adding adventurous items to your dinner plans. If you find yourself doing a well-loved favorite around the house for dinner, add some new flavors as a side dish. For example, use grilled salmon to introduce your kids to asparagus. They don’t have to eat it all or even like it, but by regularly exposing them to new flavors you can develop your picky eater into a foodie.
Eating habits established in childhood can last a lifetime. Start your kids off strong with a good diet early on in life to set them on the healthiest path going forward.