5 Top Tips for Teaching Kids about Healthy Eating
Summer is an ideal time to teach children about health and wellness—between the unlimited outdoor activities, longer hours of sunlight, and bounties of fruits and veggies at your disposal, this is a great time of year to create healthy eating regimens before the back-to-school cafeteria foods and busy days of carpooling begin once again.
Healthy eating begins with us as parents. Here are five easy tips that can help your family focus on eating better and living a more health-conscious lifestyle.
5 Tips for Teaching Kids about Healthy Eating
Resolve to Become a Better Role Model
If your children see you frequently pulling into the local drive-thru for a quick burger, guess where they’ll be headed once they start driving themselves? Make veggie burgers something you enjoy. Make your children’s exercise—soccer, basketball, rollerblading—your exercise (as much as your back will allow).
If you have budding chefs, take them into the kitchen with you. Share the fun. The earlier they develop healthy cooking skills, the better.
Start a New Game of “Good Grades for Good Food”
As your children head back to school, tell them you have a nifty new game the family will be launching, and that it involves good grades but not a single (phew!) report card. Then, throughout each day (not just at mealtimes) have fun grading different foods together. Our family conversations often went something like this…
"Mom, bacon is a ‘D’ or ‘F,' right?"
"Yep. It’s not only high in fats that hurt our hearts, it has chemicals that may lead to cancer."
"And I know cherries are an ‘A.’ But what about cherry pie? Is that sort of a ‘C’?"
Children love trying to guess how to grade each food. That’s the game. The goal is their realization that they really do eat a lot of "A" and "B" foods. Very quickly, they start to feel like "A" and "B" kids. Those "A" foods, just like "A" grades in school, take on a certain aura, a mark of excellence. And children begin to feel proud of their healthy choices, and themselves.
Set Up Non-food Rewards
Every time you offer your children fast food as a reward, you’re creating second- and third-generation fast-food junkies. The same goes for other high-calorie-dense rewards like candy bars and trips to the ice cream parlor.
Instead, treat them to a trip to their favorite park for a little calorie-burning fun. Or take 20-minute breaks from homework for a little "recess reward" time outdoors playing volleyball or soccer, weather permitting. Instead of a night at the pizzeria, take the family out for an upbeat movie, concert, or sports event.
4. Set new limits for television viewing, especially of kids' shows.
Almost every commercial is for something they should not eat or do not need. For TV shows that they insist on watching, use the DVR and record them. That way, you can speed through all the commercials and all the sugary, fatty, salty temptations.
5. Resolve to carve out time to enjoy more family dinnertime at home.
Kids and teens don't need separate meals at the local burger joint on their way home from sports or other extracurricular activities at school; however, they do need to be exposed to healthy food very early in life - and daily. Repetition fosters acceptance, then enjoyment.
To enhance the pleasures of healthy food at dinnertime, create pleasurable conversation. Keep the talk upbeat. Ask your children questions like:
- What made you feel really good about yourself today?
- What made you laugh today?
- What’s your favorite veggie? Why?
- Tell me one thing you learned today.
What better way to end the day, and underscore the feeling among your children that good food is also about good living. It’s a mind-set we all can enjoy and benefit from in 2014.
What are you doing to teach your family about healthy eating?
These tips have been provided to you by Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LD/N. Kimberly is a healthy dietitian at Pritikin Longevity Center
Photo courtesy of Flickr