Although our meals have become faster – and fattier – in nature, many parents still have to endure the occasional meal time tantrum when children do not want to eat what is given to them. Whether it’s because of allergies, intolerances, or dislikes, parents are finding it harder and harder to feed their family healthy foods that their children also like.
This blog post gives parents suggestions on what a healthy meal looks like and how to raise a healthy eater.
What constitutes a healthy meal?
Generally, we all know what healthy food is. We’re typically taught what a balanced meal looks like in elementary school, and – although the shape of the chart might change from time to time – the type of food within it usually does not.
The exact portions of fruits, grains, vegetables, proteins, and dairy that you and your child should consume daily can be found at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Choose My Plate website.
How can parents raise their children to be healthy eaters?
Nutritionists and pediatricians have many great suggestions. A few key elements include the following:
- Ensure that meal times equate to a family get together. Sitting around the table and discussing the day’s events in a calm, pleasant manner is an extremely important positive association for children.
- Make your own healthy choices. Most children model themselves after their parents. If your children see you eating fattier, sugary foods, your children are likely to develop the same eating habits.
- Avoid following age-old advice. Many parents remember that, as children, they were not allowed to leave the dinner table unless they ate every bite off their plate. This is not the case anymore. Encourage your child to determine when they should stop eating.
- Widen your palate. Try out new recipes. This can include substitutions of meatless items, such as tofu, additions of vegetables or dairy foods, or even unique cuisines from different cultures.
- Let your children help. Asking for help in the kitchen is a great way to get your children involved with their food. Not only will this let them create their meals exactly how they want, but it’s a great transition to learning how to cook.
- Avoid bribing with dessert. Positives are always better than negatives when helping your children establish their own thought processes and decision making skills. Bribing your kids with chocolate cake so they finish their broccoli will give them the idea that doing the “right thing” means that they should receive an external reward.
- Show your children how much you enjoy healthy food. Promoting the benefits and flavors of fruits, veggies, and other healthy foods can show your kids that it’s okay to like them, too.
- Avoid letting your kids over-snack. Many times, children don’t eat dinner because they are already full. Filling snacks, such as chips and soda, should be substituted with reduced portions of something less substantial.
- Stay away from juice. Even all natural juice has an enormous amount of sugar. While very tasty, drinking juice of any kind has no major health benefit. Eat the fruit instead.
- Eat more fish, less beef. A diet high in fish has tremendous health benefits, and unfortunately, beef is high in fat and cholesterol.