How to establish healthy eating habits for children

Optimum nutrition is vital for children’s development, growth and behaviour, as well as providing them with the nutrients that are required for a healthy immune system.

As parents, you are their role model so it is really important that you eat well because then you will have more chance of encouraging them to follow suit.

How to help your children adopt healthy eating habits:

  • Ensure that you eat a wide range of foods especially fruit and vegetables so that you all get a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as keeping a varied and interesting diet.
  • Ensure that breakfast is a nutritious meal because this will set them up for the day. Good options are eggs, homemade muesli, porridge, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Get prepared the night before to get yourself ahead, lay the table, soak oats for porridge or just decide what you’re going to eat and have the utensils, pans etc. on the side ready to go.
  • Keep snacks to a minimum. Snacks can be the main reason for children not eating properly at meal times. In my experience, children will eat if they are really hungry. Also, if you are trying to get children to eat/try new foods you want them to be really hungry at mealtimes because they will be more likely to give it a go!
  • Try to avoid rewarding children with treats, especially sugary ones, so that you don’t encourage them to associate certain foods with treats and good behaviour. Use other methods of reward which are not food related such as playing games. Sugar is so addictive it is best kept to a minimum to avoid children developing sweet cravings.
  • Get the children involved in the cooking process. This helps to create an interest in food and it can be really simple tasks such as cracking eggs, mixing things in bowls, peeling veg etc.

How to encourage good eating habits at mealtimes:

  • Eat together with your children as much as possible. Not only is this an opportunity to interact with them on a social level but simply sitting and eating with them will encourage them to eat.
  • Eat the same food as your children; if you won’t eat it why should they? Only serve one option at a meal time because different food options can lead to fussy eating later on. Children will often try to see how much they can push you with “I don’t like this” etc. but, if you just explain that this is the only meal on offer and there is nothing else, chances are they will eat it.
  • Ensure there are no distractions, such as TV, phones or toys at the table. Children can become easily distracted.
  • Don’t let meal times turn into a fight of emotions. Be careful not to show any upset or anger that you may feel after preparing a meal which has been turned down. The children will notice this and it can then lead to an emotional battle.

There are so many ways to improve children’s nutrition and encourage healthy eating so contact a nutritional therapist who can offer support and guidance.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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