The best nutrition for children is clear thanks to government guidelines, magazine and news articles that emphasize healthy eating for kids, and general health tips that are seemingly given out by everyone these days. The difficulty arises when parents and other caregivers actually try and convince kids that they should engage in healthy eating. What is healthy eating for kids and how can caregivers engage kids in taking an active role in their own health and nutrition?
Healthy Eating for Kids
Instilling Healthy eating habits for kids can be a difficult, especially if the most influential adults around the children are not good nutrition role models. Most adults want to teach kids to eat healthy while still eating unhealthy foods themselves. As parents, we must begin to change our own nutritional habits if we want to see our kids become healthy eaters. By working with kids on improving the eating habits of the entire family, there is a much higher chance that children in a home will become lifelong healthy eaters.
There are several ways that caregivers can encourage nutrition-focused eating habits.
- Schedule a family meal time where everyone can catch up and the adults can model healthy eating habits.
- Involve kids in the preparation of menus, grocery shopping and meals. Kids will be more excited to eat food that they helped choose and prepare.
- Prepare healthy snacks ahead of time so they are convenient. Use snack time to serve healthy foods like nuts, fruit, or vegetables.
- Don't force kids to eat everything on their plate. This only creates conflict and can lead to eating disorders later in life.
Once kids are encouraged to eat healthy, how do caregivers keep them on track? There are several resources that parents can utilize in order to monitor their child’s healthy eating.
How Your Kid's School Helps With Healthy Eating
The school lunch programs have nutritional guidelines for kids and teens. For those who purchase lunch at school, it is best for caregivers to go over a child's choices for the week to guide him/her into acknowledging which choices are healthy and which are not. At school, it is ultimately the kid's decision, but discussing the reasons behind healthy eating and the consequences on future health with poor eating gives a child more incentive to make a healthier choice.
Other areas to consider are after school activities and knowing what is available for students to eat at these practices, club meetings, and sporting events. Many schools have begun to eliminate sugar from the selection offered. Research has indicated that less sugar served in schools appears to correlate with higher academic performance. If the school still has sugary choices, be sure to pack healthy but appealing choices so that kids stay healthy in the midst of temptation.
Children of all ages can learn to enjoy to healthy eating, however, much of this is determined by the habits and behavioral patterns of the adults in their lives. If parents take a stance on healthy eating that encourages positive diet changes and daily exercise, then it is likely that their children will be influenced and soon follow.