You want your kids to eat healthy but every time you try to introduce healthier food options they are just not that interested. Sound familiar?
What can we as parents do about this? How can we get our kids to eat better, for better health, to ensure they have the nutrition they need to grow healthy bodies and healthy minds? Here's 3 things that I implemented for my kids, after I started my training to become a Naturopath and learning about how important our diets are when it comes to our health and wellbeing, to help them (and lets face it - in the long run me!) to eat healthier.
Knowledge truly is power. If you can explain to your child/children, educate them, about why they are eating what they are eating, how specific foods are going to benefit them, then they are going to be more likely to comply with eating the healthier food options. For example, in general "eating fruit is great for our digestive system because it is full of fibre" or more specific "we eat kiwifruit because it is full of Vitamin C which we need to strengthen our immune system so we get less colds this winter". How you educate your child/children will depend on their age/s. For younger children reading picture books about healthy foods, or flash cards, is a great option for educating them.
With this knowledge your child/children will view healthier food options in a positive light, eating them as a positive action, an action that is good for them, an action that will help them to be strong, energetic, and provide positive long-term health. This will lead your child/children to feel good about themselves, knowing they are making choices that contribute to their health in a positive way (which actually boosts their self-esteem and sets them up for healthy eating habits as adults as well - win win).
Education around why we eat food, the purpose of eating, is also great here. We eat food for sustenance, for energy, and to provide the body and the brain with the fuel and the nutrients (vitamins & minerals) it requires to function at its best. The foods we eat are used by the body to make new cells, which make up our organs, which make up our body systems, that make up us! So essentially, we are what we eat! My kids loved this when I told them, they found it funny but also interesting and I could see their minds pondering this new fact.
It's also a great idea here to educate your children on the negative effects of the unhealthy food options. For example, "lollies have lots of sugar in them and eating too much sugar can make us feel emotional, overactive or they can give us brain fog and headaches". I feel it is important not to demonize unhealthy options as in reality children are going to choose or want these options and yes lollies are a part of every childhood, so we don't want our children to feel "bad" or "wrong" or "naughty" when they do eat these types of foods (just as mum and dad will also at times). The message here is really about balance/moderation and choices that have a cause and effect action. We want our children to be eating healthy foods most of the time, the rule rather than the exception, so when they do eat the less desirable options, then hey that's okay because say 80% of their diet is on point.
2. Role Model
This is a biggie. As parents if we practice what we preach and we role model healthy eating, that is we too ourselves choose and eat the healthier food options, our children will too. Children are much more likely to copy what their parents, caregivers, and/or guardians (any role models in their lives) do, rather then doing it simply because they are told to in the case of "cause I said so", this does not evoke empowerment. Role modelling healthy choices and options is a very powerful way to teach, and for children to learn. I feel this was hugely beneficial in getting my kids on board when I started to make health changes in our household. I wasn't telling my kids to drink water then drinking coke in front of them, I too was drinking water (and of course my herbal teas - love herbal tea!)
3. Small Changes
Start with one small change at a time and build from there. What does this look like? Introducing a new type of food, for example fruit for the first couple of weeks with one piece of fruit added to their lunch box per day (and don't forget your lunchbox too ;)). When they are used to this you can then add two pieces and continue to increase each week. A great trick here is to replace a previously not so healthy lunchbox item such as chocolate biscuits or packet of chips with the piece of fruit, this way you are improving health two ways - double whamming. I refer to this as a "simple switch out", switching out a health hindering option for a health promoting option.
Provide different types of fruit to see which one your child/children prefers. If they are eating the healthier options they like this will strengthen their habit of eating well and help motivate them to be on board with future changes in their diet.
Sounds easy right? Yes and No - it can be overwhelming and challenging at the start, to begin and stay motivated to follow through. If you are not too sure about what foods are healthy and what foods are not, or what foods are best suited for creating and maintain you and your family's health, would like to educated yourself in more depth about nutrition, or simply would like some support in beginning to make these healthy nutritional changes in your family, then please get in touch to book a consultation with me. I look forward to hearing from you.