STEERING CHILDREN TOWARDS HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES
Providing our children with good food and teaching them healthy eating habits from the beginning can set them up for a lifetime of health benefits.
How to make healthy eating easy
You might worry about whether your child is eating enough. Or you might be worried that your child is eating too much. The most powerful way to send healthy food messages to your child is by letting her see you make healthy eating choices every day. Children will want to do what they see you doing.
Here are some more tips to encourage healthy choices in your child:
- Have healthy snacks handy for when you know your child will be hungry.
- Keep ‘sometimes’ foods and drinks out of the house.
- Aim to fill half the plate at main meals with salad or vegetables.
- If your child doesn’t eat part of the meal this is their choice. It isn’t a good idea to offer extra serves of other food to make up for missing vegies.
- Read books that have healthy food messages with your child – for example, books with pictures of fruits and vegetables. Get your child to point out different types, colours, shapes and so on.
Vegetables are part of a healthy diet, but encouraging children to eat them can sometimes be a challenge.
Some parents disguise vegetables. But to change your child’s behaviour and thinking about vegetables, it’s important to regularly offer vegetables in their original form. This gives your child the chance to get familiar with and learn to like different tastes and textures.
Try these ideas:
- Keep trying with vegetables.
- Praise your child when she eats or tries vegetables.
- Get your child involved in cooking with vegetables. They could put chopped vegetables in the steamer before you cook them, or arrange sliced capsicum, tomato and mushroom on a pizza base.
- Offer vegetables as snacks.
Family life can be busy, and getting everyone to the table at once can be difficult. But it’s well worth the effort, because sharing regular family meals gives everyone a chance to connect and are a good opportunity to model healthy food choices.
Here are some of our favourite family meal tips:
- Set aside regular times to eat together.
- Allow around half an hour for the family meal so your child has plenty of time to eat.
- If your child is too distracted to sit at the table, try having quiet time before meals so he or she can calm down before eating. Even the ritual of hand-washing can help.
- Some children this age are still learning to use cutlery. Choose dishes that your child can easily eat with a fork or spoon, or cut food into small pieces so they can enjoy eating independently.
This article was published with the permission of Goodstart Early Learning who now provide balanced, healthy meals at morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea at no additional cost across most Centres. Contact your local Goodstart Centre to find out more or click here.