You can tell a child vegetables are good for them, and they will believe you. However, the next time cauliflower appears on their plate, they will probably forget that conversation altogether. Children, as young as they are, are very set in their ways. Their eating likes and dislikes, for instance, are hard to shake once set. Sadly, most of their aversions will be to things they should like, the foods that will help them grow and keep them well. When junk food is winning the battle of your kid’s diet, it’s time to change your approach.
With obesity approaching epidemic proportions in the U.S., it is a matter of real importance that good foods come first. Your child will not see what they eat as a life-altering choice, but it really is. Obese children often become obese adults at risk for many serious health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Beyond the long-term effects are factors like your child’s mood, stamina, and dental health. Food low in nutritive value has an adverse effect on each of these variables. The consequences may seem remote, the struggle may take some effort, but getting your child to eat healthier is possible.
1 Model Healthy Eating Behavior
Eat the way you want your kids to eat. Skip the sugary snacks you are forbidding them. Show them that you like good food, and they’ll try it, too. Try not to point out to them how well you are eating and how they should do the same. Instead, talk about how good the food tastes and how good you feel.
2 Cook with Your Kids
Let your kids experience the transformation from ingredient to finished product. They’ll see food differently. Let them choose some recipes, and offer to help with the tricky parts like cutting and shredding. Meals become more fun when kids have played a part in their making.
3 Provide Positive Reinforcement
When a child has the strength to turn away from candy for a few days, notice it. Tell him you’re proud, that you knew he could do it – be supportive. It can be tough both physically and mentally giving up favorite foods. When a child makes a real effort, he deserves real praise.
4 Reward Good Behavior
For a child who’s giving it his all and sticks with the healthy plan despite hardship, a non-food treat might be in order. This could be a trip to a favorite place, a toy, or a movie. Taking food out of the realm of reward and punishment will help your child’s attitude toward eating in the long term.
5 Add Healthy Food Bit by Bit
No one likes radical change in something so fundamental as diet. Big, sudden changes seldom last. For optimal success, introduce healthy elements to your children’s diet in small increments. Do not throw out all the candy on one sad afternoon. Instead, purchase a healthy snack like almonds as an alternative. Incorporate vegetables into sauces. Blended, they offer all the benefits as they do roasted or steamed, but they don’t look nearly as intimidating.
Helping kids eat in a more healthy way can be a pleasure. They will discover new favorites and you will witness their attitude toward food change for the better. Sometimes, though, it will be so hard that another argument about dinner will not seem worthwhile. It is important to remember, however, that this is about the health of your children, it is worthwhile and that you can get through it with a bit of patience.