Nourish - 6 Tips For Developing Healthy Eating Habits In Young Kids
Today’s blog post is about developing healthy eating habits in young kids. Many parents ask themselves the question, why is it that some children eat well and make healthy choices, and some are super fussy and have a difficult relationship with food?
Eating can be a much-debated and sensitive topic amongst parents, especially when everyone is trying to get their child to eat well and make healthy choices.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that difficult or picky eaters are always a creation of their upbringing. However, I believe that very often, our own relationship and attitude towards food can greatly influence children.
Within this blog, I will layout 6 Tips For Developing Healthy Eating Habits In Young Kids
No. 1 – Eat With Your Children as Often as Possible
Children learn by example, so unfortunately if you scoff down junk food in front of the TV, they will soon learn to do the same! Kids like to eat what their parents are eating, especially when they’re young.
Instead of sitting on the sofa, set up the table and enjoy a meal together as a family at least once a day if you can.
This way of eating can also help promote home-cooked meals which are often much healthier and balanced. Plus, it is more likely to be appreciated when time is taken to enjoy it properly.
Eating together at the table can also encourage social interaction and connection, so turn off the T.V and enjoy each other’s company and the good food.
No. 2 – Involve Your Children in the Dinner Preparation
I’ve found it comes up a lot in conversations with friends that have children, that if you involve children in food preparations, they are much more willing to try new foods and eat what they have created.
They can start helping at quite an early age, whether it’s picking veggies in the garden or even salad leaves from the window sill. Maybe they’re old enough to use a knife (suitable for children) to cut the veggies. Or perhaps they can help mix the ingredients together in a bowl for salad or add ingredients to the blender (though watch out for their little fingers!).
Involve them by telling them what you are doing and making. Let them try the ingredients. Take them shopping or to the local market. Let them choose some food and prepare that food for the family meal.
You may soon notice that when your children have been actively involved in the meal preparation, they will be more open to try and enjoy the food.
No. 3 – Encourage Your Children to Eat Different Varieties of Food From a Young Age
A great way to develop healthy eating habits is to experiment with new foods. One way to do this is to make meals as colourful and as rich in variety as possible. Diversity is key, and so the more visually stimulating a meal appears, and the more colours and textures it incorporates, the more likely your children will be to delve in. Especially if they were involved in creating it.
Keep in mind that whenever you’re introducing a new food, try not to overhype or over-react about it. If you act casual about it, making it part of the regular eating experience without the fuss, your child may be more inclined to eat it. Pushing and pushing it may create resistance. Try and stay relaxed about it.
Also, give your child the benefit of the doubt. Instead of being doubtful when they pick up something they haven’t tried before and saying “you can try this, but you probably won’t like it”, be casual. Approach it normally without a doubtful opinion. You just might be surprised!
No. 4 – If a Certain Food is Disliked, Don’t Give up Hope
If you have a fussy eater in the household, don’t give up hope.
If a certain food is disliked, don’t ban it entirely from the house. Instead, try offering it in different forms. For example, people who dislike the texture of broccoli often find it more palatable in a sauce or soup. Similarly, others who say they hate tomatoes find they love it as a pasta sauce!
Children’s tastes often change as they grow older, so keep positively trying and introducing the foods in a different way and soon they may realise they like it!
If your child is super fussy and won’t even allow a fruit or vegetable to sit in its recognisable form on the plate, ‘hide’ it. Blend it into soups, pasta sauces, dressings, or chop the veggies super finely into dishes like lasagne. Maybe whip up a fruit smoothie (and sneak in some greens!), or make fruity ice cream using avocado and coconut as a base.
Eventually, though, it is, of course, best for the child to recognise what is going in the food so that their fussiness can wither away and their enjoyment of good food can blossom.
No. 5 – Always Encourage Your Child to Try Everything on the Table and Ask Them What They Like and Don’t Like, and Why
Instead of creating a meal and hearing “I don’t like it!” and never making it again, ask them why. What is it they are having difficulty with? For example, is the food too salty, too spicy, too bitter etc.? Once you know where they are coming from, you can adjust it.
Children can often have much more sensitive palates, and so if you have slavered the salt on year after year, perhaps to them it feels like they’re licking a salt bowl!
Recreate the dish without the salt and allow them to adjust the flavour as they like.
No. 6 – Make Food Fun!
Here’s a trick that worked on me every time as a kid.
As soon as my boiled egg had a smiling face on the shell, I was in!
When I was offered a piece of pineapple I wasn’t that interested, then suddenly the pineapple was on a stick with melons, strawberries and grapes – then I wanted it!
Depending on the child’s age, of course, play around with the look of their meals to get them more interested. You could start with breakfast, and create a visually attractive porridge bowl with colourful fruits, nuts and seeds.
Maybe you make some toast with peanut butter and use bananas and raisins to create a bear face in it, or some gluten-free coconut banana pancakes with fruit to look like owls or fish like this one!
Try making your child’s lunchbox in a theme each week – perhaps it’s an insect week with ants on a log using meridian peanut butter or almond butter and organic raisins. Then again, it could be a pirate week with pirate shaped sandwiches like this one.
Maybe it’s a Teddy Bear picnic week where you have an excuse to make these adorable almond hugging bear cookies.
Make it fun, make it healthy and make it tasty!
So that’s it! My 6 Tips For Developing Healthy Eating Habits In Young Kids.
Fingers and toes crossed this may help some of you make healthy eating a more positive experience!
I understand this is a tricky subject, so please remember that these are just a handful of tips gathered from experience and friends experiences.
Perhaps you have some tips and routines of your own you’d like to share?
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication
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