We parents worry about our kids. It’s our job to do so!
But in the food department, we can get so caught up worrying whether our kids are getting enough of this or that, that we lose sight of the bigger picture. And I think this can take away from our goal of raising healthy eaters.
Instead of trying to make sure every meal you serve has the right amount of every food group, I recommend thinking about the following three themes when it comes to feeding kids. Of course we won’t do every single one of these things everyday – and that’s OK! – but keeping these in mind can help us stay on track and stress less about little shifts in our children’s diets.
3 Ways to Raise Healthy Eaters
1. Model good eating habits.
- Eat homemade food – at home – as often as possible. Eat lots of vegetables, prepared in a different ways. Eat a wide variety of foods. Eat together as a family when you can. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Take breaks before having second helpings. Drink water instead of juice or soda. Find something to do when you’re bored besides eat.
2. Provide a healthy food environment.
- Buy foods you want your kids to eat. Avoid buying foods you don’t want them to eat. (If having treats or packaged snacks at home is an issue for you or your kids, save treats for when you’re away from home). Bring home a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains. Give your kids some say in what you buy, so there are always things they enjoy in your home. Involve your kids in food prep once in awhile.
3. Promote a healthy relationship with food.
- Let your child decide what and how much to eat (if you’re doing #2 this is easy). Don’t criticize your body or your own eating habits in front of your kids. Encourage your child to listen to her body’s signals related to hunger and satisfaction. Don’t force kids to finish their food or eat something they don’t like. Avoid using treats as rewards (or no treats as punishment). Suggest fun non-food activities when your kids are bored.
If you do these things the majority of the time, it’s likely your kids will grow up to be healthy eaters. They may be picky now (or for the next few weeks, months or years) but in the long run they will change. And it’s the long run that’s most important!