When I ask my kids what they’d like for dinner, the answer is always the same. (spaghetti bolognese if you’re wondering.) Left to their own devices, kids would happily eat sweets, cakes and crisps. Or at least mine would If your kids are “sugar seeking missiles”, don’t worry. They are normal and you can teach them healthy eating habits.
Healthy eating is a skill that we learn
As humans we have some in built survival drives. Seeking sugar for a quick dose of energy is one. Back in the day before modern society, the biggest sugar hit we could get was a glut of berries or ripe fruit. Honey if we were lucky.
Now we live in a world where sugar is easily accessible. So although it’s normal to want to eat it, we don’t have to for survival.
Our bodies have amazing systems that allow us to store sugar. We can access those stores when we need to. We don’t always need to get our energy from outside.
Given the choice between broccoli and a juicy pear (or slice of cake), it’s human nature to pick the sugar laden option. Rather than the healthy broccoli. Our job as parents is to help our kids love healthy foods so that when they’re old enough to fend for themselves they’ll pick healthy options. And understand that there’s nothing wrong with treats. It’s just getting the balance right.
8 Simple Ways To Teach Your Kids Healthy Eating Habits
- Model healthy eating yourself. Kids learn by copying. If your household norm is healthy eating, your kids won’t think of it as “healthy eating”. They’ll think of it as “eating”.
- Get them in the kitchen. Even from an early age, kids can help in the kitchen. Preparing vegetables is a fantastic job. Even if you’re making cakes with them, you’ll be teaching them (and yourself) how much sugar goes into all those sweet treats. In fact, there are lots of healthy treats that don’t contain much sugar. My kids love my “chocolate aubergine brownies” aka “mummy’s yummy chocolate cake”.
- Lots of variety. Lots of vegetables. Most kids are “green things averse”. 2 of mine are super picky. But I still present them with different seasonal vegetables. If they don’t eat them, I do! I always make sure there’s something acceptable for them to eat.
- Get them in the garden. My oldest son developed a love of peas at the age of one. He used to go and pick them from our tiny garden.
- Learning self limits. Back to the sugar story! Pick a daily and weekly sugar limit. One biscuit a day and one small handful of “something sweeter” a week is a reasonable upper limit.
- You don’t need dessert every day. You can opt for healthy desserts such as fruit, but you don’t need dessert every day. I also recommend no seconds of desserts. Normally we eat dessert because it tastes good rather than for the nutrients it gives up. There’s no such thing as “only hungry for chocolate”!
- Talk to them about nutrition in an age appropriate way. Most kids are interested in how the world works. Start off by explaining different food groups. “Vegetables”, “fruits”, “fats”, “proteins”, “processed foods” is a simple way to start. As they get older you can explain more about how our bodies work and how food affects us. If you’re not sure, look it up together.
- Make it fun. Getting kids familiar with vegetables away from the dinner table can be a fun way to help kids. Think books, shopping trolley games. One of my friend’s ons learnt to love broccoli after his granny gave him a soft broccoli toy.
You can teach your kids to eat a healthy diet. To learn to love healthy foods. Remember that teaching kids healthy eating habits is a long term project and you can have fun and enjoy it.
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