Children are naturally impulsive and almost always have poor self-control‒-which is one of the reasons why we as parents have to keep such a close eye on them. In no area do children need more help than when it comes to diet, though. Left to their own devices, the average child would eat an absolutely horrendous diet (yikes!). That's why it's so important for adults to encourage the right healthy eating habits in kids from an early age. Here are six ways for parents to get their children to eat a more wholesome, nutritious diet.
- Keep unhealthy foods out of the house. If seriously unhealthy junk foods like potato chips or soda pop are never bought in the first place, kids won't have the option of eating them. Children will also be less likely to develop a taste for junk foods, making them more likely to make healthy choices when they are outside of the home. Stock your pantry with healthy snacks and drinks that kids can grab and go.
- Act as a role model. Children inevitably learn from the behavior of their parents--perhaps more than from any other source. That's why it's so important for mom and dad to consume a quality diet themselves. If parents teach one thing, but practice another, children will almost certainly end up adopting their parents' bad habits. Adults should remember that their diet choices will affect not just their own health, but that of their little ones, too.
- Make home-cooked family meals at the table a regular thing. Family meals offer a chance for parents to have more control over their children's diet and get in some quality time together. Instead of leaving a child to fend for themselves--which will likely result in unhealthy food choices--parents should strive to make at least one wholesome, balanced meal per day as often as possible. Family meals also offer a particularly valuable opportunity to introduce kids to new, unfamiliar foods.
- Teach them. While some kids won't care at all if the food they eat is bad for them, others are more amenable to nutritional education. If a parent explains exactly why healthy foods are so beneficial in positive terms (i.e. "This food gives you a strong heart!), a child will be more likely to opt for that healthy food in the future. Children that internalize the lessons of healthy eating will be more likely to maintain healthy habits throughout their adult life.
- Don't allow them a choice. No parent wants to see their child angry or sad, but a little short-term discontent can ultimately be good if it results in better health. Sometimes parents should simply make their kids eat something that's good for them. After all, mom and dad really do know best. If children know they are obliged to eat the healthy foods served on their plate, they will eventually learn to accept--and perhaps even enjoy--the taste.
- Dine out less. For busy parents, the allure of eating out--particularly at super-convenient fast food restaurants--can be very strong. But resisting the temptation to make a habit of eating out is vital. Restaurant food is generally unhealthy, especially at fast food joints that favor processed ingredients. Think of going out to eat as a fun monthly treat!