Feeding your family a healthy diet can be a challenge. Most people know that fruits, vegetables and whole grains are healthy, and parents hope that their children are getting enough nutrients, however, in the United States children ages 4 to 12 have influenced approximately 128 billion dollars in food spending. And most of that money is spent on junk food. Cartoons such as Tony the Tiger, Shrek, the Simpsons and Spider-Man encourage children to request not-so-healthy items too often.
Ellyn Satter, author of Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, says that responsibility lies with parents to supply the what, when and where of eating, while children are responsible for how much they eat.
Here are nine tips to make healthy eating a way of life for your kids, and to make mealtime simple, tasty and conflict free for the family.
1. Establish Food Values
Establishing core values such as clean eating, eating local, and eating together will guide children to a healthy relationship with food. When creating your dinner menu, first decide what is most important to you. Is taste, cost, convenience, type of ingredients or safety at the top of your priority list?
- If cost is important to you and your family, try volunteering at a local cooperative market. Cooperative markets work with customers in order to keep the cost of items low, and some markets give discounts in exchange for time spent volunteering.
2. Provide a Wide Variety of Food
Add new foods to your list in addition to the familiar standbys. Don't be swayed if your children don't like a certain food. Encourage them to taste it on three different occasions before making a decision.
- Be subtle with picky eaters. Introduce pureed, mashed, shredded, diced, chopped or skewered fruits and vegetables in foods such as casseroles, sauces, stir fry or lasagnas. Add fruit to pancakes, muffins, breads or salads.
- Do not use food as a reward. This will only create a complicated relationship with food choice in the future.
- Do not allow children to dictate the family meal plan. Your home is not a restaurant. Do not offer more than one choice at meal time.
- Do not force kids to eat too much or to eat something they don't want: This reduces their ability to judge when they are satisfied.
3. Follow a Routine
According to the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, studies have documented that schedules and routines influence children's emotional, cognitive and social development. Children respond well to schedules and routines. They enjoy knowing ahead of time what is going to happen: It helps them feel loved and secure.