Is feeding your children correctly a daily challenge for you?
If the answer is yes, then know that you’re not alone.
Many parents feel they don’t have the time, budget or energy to serve healthy food for every single meal. There’s also the (mistaken) belief that children simply do not like the taste of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.
But here’s the good news: There are also various strategies you can implement to address these challenges to make healthy meals not just a special add-on but rather a regular and main part of your daily menu.
4 Ps to Champion Healthy Eating
By equipping your kids with the proper skills, perspectives and values about food and eating, you can raise them to be healthy eaters for life. Here are “the 4 Ps” to do it:
How you plan, prepare and schedule your meals will impact how realistically you can promote healthy eating at home. So set aside time to sit down and plan your menu for the week or two. Establish the time and energy you need for shopping, food prep and other related tasks, such as clearing junk food away and restocking the fridge and pantry with healthy options.
Weekly meal planning allows you to better manage the cost and time it takes to serve nutrient-rich foods your children need to achieve their height and weight growth milestones. It provides you the opportunity to brainstorm snacks, dishes, beverages and food pairings that are packed with nutrition, bursting with flavors, and won’t require hours of slaving away in the kitchen.
Several studies have shown that visual appeal influences how people enjoy food. Research suggests that children tend to find plates with more colors and types of food more attractive. Think bento box, which allows you to add variety to your kid’s diet every meal. Your usual steamed greens can be made more appetizing when you sauté them with garlic and olive oil and serve them with a sprinkling of Parmesan. When trying to get your child to eat more fruit, why not offer a smoothie, made even more nutritious and creamier with the addition of fortified milk?
Also under presentation is portion. Don’t overwhelm the kid with too much food heaped on her plate. It’s much better to offer smaller portions, especially when introducing or exploring new foods.
Give your little ones an active role to play in your family’s quest to healthy eating. Invite them to help you as you write down your grocery list. Take them with you the next time you shop for food, and ask them for recommendations.
Once in a while, let them decide what’s for dinner, lunch or breakfast; the key is to ask them to choose from a lineup of healthy options. Get them to do some simple food preparation and cooking tasks.
All these make your kids feel empowered and included, and will definitely spark their enthusiasm for eating the food they helped prepare or pick out. Moreover, learning simple chores can boost their cognitive development and help fine-tune their motor skills.
Building healthy eating habits requires time, consistency and understanding of your child’s individual needs and preferences. Some kids may love veggies right from the start, while others need more coaching before they develop a taste for it.
A golden rule is to take things slow when introducing new food. Offer small portions of it and try it another time if they refuse it, until become more used to it – they might even grow to love it. If your child seems to be a fussy eater, remember that positive reinforcement works more often and for the long-term than bribery and threats.
Looking beyond the menu
Raising healthy eaters requires ongoing and consistent commitment. Moreover, your children’s needs, preferences and behavior are poised to change over time, so flexibility and a dash of creativity is a must.
You’ll also face a lot of surprises along the way as you make the case for eating well, but one thing is for sure: Your kids can enjoy a lifetime of healthful eating if you start the journey today.