Some children naturally gravitate towards healthy foods, yet others are more resistant. To help your entire family develop proper life-long dietary habits, below are a few suggested ways to encourage healthy eating for kids:
Get Them Involved
To spark excitement about healthy foods, involve your children in meal planning and preparation. Grow a vegetable garden in your backyard and ask your kids to help with watering or weeding. At dinner time, discuss the reasons why you are eating healthy items and how they can help kids grow up to be big and strong. For example, say carrots give us powerful eyesight, or milk makes our bones strong. Label each vegetable and fruit to generate awareness of which foods are building blocks for a healthy diet. Offer a choice of vegetables or side dishes and let your children select at least one each night.
If your children continually resist healthy foods, you may need to revert to a few sneak tactics. Switch out Greek yogurt for sour cream. When baking, cut back on sugar and add a natural sweetener such as stevia or organic agave. Offer water with a dash of lemon in place of soda or sugary fruit juice and replace whole milk with skim. By working new foods into a child's diet slowly, rather than all at once, they may not even notice the difference.
At the supermarket, opt for foods geared towards healthy eating for kids. Pre-wrapped fruit and vegetables, or healthy chips packaged in child-sized portions work well for packed school lunches. Organic foods can be pricey, so check the weekly store circulars for sales and buy fruit in season — when it is typically less expensive. To replace processed foods with natural selections, compare the ingredient listings and remember, less is better. Don't be afraid to try new things, even vegetables and fruits you haven't tried before. Search cookbooks and the Internet for healthy recipes and let your children choose which new fruit or vegetable they want to try.
Encourage Healthy Eating for Kids Everywhere You Go
Point out good food choices on the menu when dining out. In recent years, many family-friendly restaurants have added healthy options to kids' meals. Send fruit kabobs into school in place of cupcakes on your child's birthday. Take notice when your child makes a healthy choice and encourage them. Healthy eating is a commitment, but with so many delicious options available today, it is possible to find great foods your kids will love.
Don't Forget Exercise
Physical activity combined with a proper diet is the best way to promote a healthy lifestyle. In Camden, New Jersey, United Way has partnered with local organizations to launch the Soccer for Success program, which not only engages kids in exercise, but also educates them on nutritional basics. Programs like Soccer for Success advance the common good by engaging children in sports as well encouraging them to eat well and be well.