Have you seen the story of this lady who only eats French fries? She never had a vegetable in her entire life! When you read about something like this, you can’t help but wonder how this is even possible. While the above case has to do with an eating disorder, you can’t deny that parenting also plays a big role in what our children grow up to eat. That first French fry Amber ever tried was a parenting choice.
As a parent, it’s one of your responsibilities to expose your children to healthy foods and instill values of proper nutrition. It’s not an easy job any means, but it’s possible. And to make it a little easier, here are a few tips you can put to use today.
Keep a cooler in your car
When you are driving your kids to and from their activities, picking up some burgers in a drive-through seems like a viable solution to keep them both fed and occupied. Instead, place a small cooler in your car and have it filled with water, bite-size veggies and fruit, yoghurt and other healthy snacks. This will curb your kids’ hunger until the dinner time, so that you can focus on driving and getting everyone home safe.
Make a schedule and a menu
It might seem like overkill, but making a schedule of what everyone eats and when will save you a lot of time and stress. Get a notebook and start writing down every dinner meal, school lunches and snacks for the entire week. If planning for a whole week is overwhelming, start with a 2-day plan. Then create a shopping list to make sure you don’t run out of ingredients. It might be time-consuming initially, but once you get into a routine, meal prepping will go much faster. And it’s a good practice because it helps you:
- Make sure your kids get enough vitamins and nutrients they need to thrive.
- Avoid last-minute (mostly unhealthy) decisions on what to eat.
- Buy food you will actually use for meals and eat instead of letting it go to waste.
Don’t let your own food preferences get in the way
Some of us might not like the texture of raw tomatoes, while others can’t stand mushrooms or zucchini. When it comes to major food groups, don’t deprive your children of a specific food just because you don’t like it. Sometimes, it means cooking foods you won’t eat—try making a meal version for yourself that doesn’t contain ingredients you dislike. This way everyone can be happy and your children won’t miss out on healthy foods. On the other hand, avoid making completely separate meals for kids and adults. Not only is it exhausting, but it will also make your kids think their food is not good enough for adults.
Avoid attaching messages to foods
Kids have their own way of reasoning. When they hear things like “veggies make you strong” or “spinach helps you grow,” they classify these foods as must-eat versus fun foods. In fact, a recent study has shown that when messages were attached to food, children liked it less and intended on consuming less. Try to watch the way you present foods to your kids and don’t put special emphasis on healthy foods. This way you can make healthy foods a norm rather than distinguishing them as an eating chore.
Be a role model
Kids watch us and repeat after us. We are their role models, whether we like it or not. By eating right and being physically active, you not only show a good example to your kids, but also have more energy and better immunity to keep up with them. Need help with healthy nutrition and getting your entire family onboard? At Women in Wellness, we’ll be happy to meet with you in our Towson, MD office to talk about how healthy nutrition can help you be a better parent to your children.
Don’t give up
It’s easier to give a crying child what they want than what’s better for them. Don’t give in to their complaints and demands. Remember, for the most part during their younger years, you are the one who decides what they should and shouldn’t eat. By establishing a healthy diet, you did your job (well, one of the jobs) as a parent and you can only hope your children will maintain the good eating habits you instilled. When you hit a wall trying to get your children to eat vegetables, get creative:
- Cut food in fun shapes or make fun arrangements on the plate.
- Cook food in different ways—raw carrots don’t taste the same as cooked carrots.
- Sneak in healthy foods in multi-ingredient meals.
- Get your kids cooking—they will be more likely to eat something they helped make.
And don’t hesitate to contact us for nutrition coaching in the Baltimore area. We work with men, women and entire families to get everyone on the same healthy page.