by Melanie from Alabama
A nutritious and well-balanced diet is vital in helping your child develop. However, you may know that encouraging your child to choose healthier options can be difficult, especially if they are a picky eater. Here are 6 ways you can encourage healthy eating habits in your child:
1. Get your child involved. Allow your child to assist in food shopping and preparing meals. Doing this will help your child feel a sense of pride and ownership about healthy eating. For example, you can ask your child to help you choose the best apples at the grocery store, or help you stir ingredients in the kitchen (away from hot surfaces).
2. Work with what they like. Parents of fussy eaters in particular are well-aware of the unique dietary preferences children often exhibit. While a variety of healthy foods is ideal, sometimes your child may only like one or two kinds of fruits or vegetables. You can use this preference as a building block. For example, if they love the texture of mashed potatoes, you might try slowly incorporating mashed sweet potatoes as well.
3. Keep mealtimes fun. Eat meals together as a family as often as possible. Also, even if your child has only managed to eat one carrot stick out of the four that you’ve given them, that’s more than enough reason to praise them. Confidence and positive self-image can go a long way in developing healthy eating habits.
4. Keep healthy snacks on hand and plan snacks ahead of time. A plastic baggie of cut-up apple slices or mini banana muffins in your fridge will give you something healthy to reach for when your child is hungry. Portable snacks such as these are also ideal options for when you and your child are on the go.
5. Lead by example. Try to model healthy eating habits as often as you can. If your child sees you choosing water or juice over soda, or happily finishing all the broccoli on your plate, they will be more likely to take an interest in healthier options.
6. Be patient. It may take several attempts before your child is willing to eat a new food. However, remain positive and patient, and soon your child may see that healthy eating can be fun.
With our busy lives, the occasional fast-food meal, cookie, or can of soda can be unavoidable. However, the healthy eating habits that your child learns early on will stick with them in later years. Encouraging healthy eating in your child as soon as possible will ensure that they receive the nutrition they need to grow and thrive.
Melanie is a mother of 8 and the Publishing Editor of Alabama Family Connections Magazine, a print and digital publication for parents and caregivers in Central Alabama.
Want more ways to create healthy eating habits for your family? wichealth.org has a free online lesson called Help Your Child Develop Healthy Eating Habits. Find it on wichealth.org the Children Ages 1-5 category!