In the early childhood years, a child rapidly develops both cognitively and physically.  Therefore, a diet high in fruits, vegetables and lean protein are important to support this development. Unfortunately developing healthy eating habits with your young children can sometimes be challenging. With busy schedules and easy meals, which are usually not the healthiest, we all need a few tricks up our sleeves for guiding children to make healthy eating choices.

Tip 1: The Power of Choice

The power of choices is an effective method to getting children to try healthy foods.  Offering choices to young children empowers them to establish their independence while providing healthy options.  When children can make their own choices, they are less likely to protest.  Giving a child a choice between apple slices and carrot sticks presents children with healthy options while empowering them.

Tip 2: Involve Children in Mealtime Preparations

Children are more likely to try a new food if they help to prepare it.  Allowing your child to assist with preparing a meal may slow down the process of getting the meal on the table, but on the other hand it will increase your child’s desire to try new foods at the dinner table.  Match your child’s developmental skills with recipes.  For example, if your child can cut playdough, they are also able to make a fruit salad with a variety of fruits they choose.  Pre-measuring and portioning ingredients is another way to support your child as a participant in meal preparations.

Tip 3: Be a Role Model

Children learn by watching.  The best publicity for broccoli is seeing you eat it!  When a child sees another person eating and enjoying a food, they are more likely to try it themselves. Parents’ attitudes and habits around food are a key factor in a child’s willingness to try new foods.

Tip 4: Stock up on Healthy Snacks

Stock up and prepare snacks of lean protein, fruits, and veggies.  Wash and pre-cut fruits and vegetables. Store snacks in small containers that are easily accessed by your child. Snacks that are high in protein and fiber will keep your children satisfied longer. Therefore, they will limit between meal snacking.  Limit purchasing those quick go to snacks such as potato chips and cookies that are not as healthy.

Tip 5: Mealtime Fun

Mealtimes should be an enjoyable experience for children so that they associate healthy foods with positive experiences.  Refrain from entering into battles or lectures over food.  Instead provide positive praise for trying and eating healthy foods.

Tip 6: The Art of Disguise

Combine foods your child may not be particularly fond of with foods that your child loves.  For example, add mashed cauliflower to mashed potatoes or blend veggies into a soup recipe.

Resources:
https://www.naeyc.org/resources/blog/lets-eat-well
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/default.aspx
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/How-to-Get-Your-Child-to-Eat-More-Fruits-and-Veggies.aspx
https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1810-promoting-healthy-eating-habits-right-from-the-start

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