Next to food critics, kids are probably the world’s most finicky eaters. Never mind that their kale or collards are chock full of antioxidants. The only thing that matters to them is the taste. If they don’t like the taste, they’re not going to put the food anywhere near their mouths. We can’t blame them. After all, it’s human nature to be repulsed by unfamiliar tastes and strong flavors.
However, not blaming them and letting them have their way are two different things. It doesn’t mean that you’d just sit there and let them devour all the bad stuff because you “can’t do anything about it”. Of course, there’s something you can do. And that’s to instill good eating habits as early as possible.
Healthy Eating Habits Start at the Grocery Store
- Take your kids grocery shopping. While you’re at it, talk to your little ones about food. Walk them through the various aisles including the fish, meat and produce sections, and discuss how food is made or where it comes from to rouse their curiosity and interest. Encourage them to ask questions. Kids are more likely to try new food that they’ve become interested or curious about.
- Let your kids make their choices. Ask your kids to pick out the fruits or veggies that they would like to eat. For older kids, comparing nutritional facts is a good idea so they know that they’re picking the healthier option.
Teaching Good Eating Habits While in the Kitchen
- Allow your children to help in the kitchen. As with grocery shopping, this activity will also spark their interest about food. They’re more likely to finish a meal that they’ve helped whip up. Just make sure that the chores given are age-appropriate. No cutting and cooking for younger children. Mixing, washing vegetables and fruits, and measuring ingredients are safe even for younger kids.
- Name the dish after your kids – Nicky’s Broccoli Spaghetti or Lucas’ Fruit Salad. Or they can also invent a totally new dish using healthy ingredients. This will make them feel proud and motivate them to eat the healthy dish they’ve helped create.
Putting Valuable Eating Habits to Practice During Mealtime
- Don’t be a short-cook. Everyone in the table should get the same meal (except for a baby who’s just started on solids). It’s never a good idea to have separate meals for the kids as this will only reinforce their pickiness.
- Encourage but never force. For foods that your kids just wouldn’t dare try, offer very small portions, and tell them to have a little bite and if they don’t like it, you’re not going to force the issue. If they end up liking it, good. If not, better luck next time.
- Introduce new foods when your kids are very hungry. Your success rate is higher with this proven strategy.
- Make mealtime family time. Eating habits are not just about nutrition but also about table manners. Be sure to turn off the TV and get fun conversations going. No touching of cell phones or iPads while on the table please.
- Set a good example. Probably the best and most effective way to teach your kids good eating habits is to practice them yourself. Observational learning remains the most powerful teaching tool for behavior modification and habit formation. You can’t expect your kids to enjoy eating their veggies if they see you munch through sugary treats and fatty dishes. A recent study by Daily Mail showed the kids ages 2 to 4 make food choices based on their parents’ preferences. So better practice what you preach!
Finally, don’t run out of patience. When the tough gets going and you feel like giving up, remember that all your efforts are for your child’s good health and proper development. And with these techniques, instilling healthy eating habits in kids shouldn’t be too much of a struggle.
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