It’s no secret that children can be incredibly picky eaters. In most cases, they’re still adjusting to the immense list of different tastes, textures, and scents of various foods.
It’s also during one’s early years when these kids start to develop their food preferences—and they can be pretty choosy when doing so.
That said, having your kid continue to eat chips, sodas, and forms of junk is definitely not something you want to instill in them early in life. While health conditions like obesity and heart problems are often associated with older people, it’s getting increasingly more common among younger folk as well.
We all want what’s best for our children—and one of the best ways to make them succeed in society is by cooking them the right meals, customized to their needs. While it can be tough to change fussy eating habits, getting your child to eat healthy is absolutely worthwhile.
Without further ado, here are six tips to help you in changing your child’s eating habits.
Introduce New Foods Gradually
If your kid eats nothing but nuggets, fries, and other forms of unhealthy foods regularly, shoving a plate of unpalatable vegetables all of a sudden won’t be the most effective way of changing their dietary habits.
In fact, this could lead them to not eat anything at all—which is the opposite of what you want them to be doing. Instead, start incorporating healthy food sources in their daily diet gradually. This method is a type of graded therapy that’s meant to remove the fear or repulsion the kid has for food healthily and sustainably.
There are many ways you can start this. For instance, during dinnertime, you can put a couple of lettuce leaves on top of their usual meal and tell them to finish it. For snacks, you can switch candies into candied fruits, then eventually into fresh fruits.
The same philosophy applies to kids with dietary restrictions like PKU; the only difference is you’ll have to completely restrict foods that can cause an adverse reaction instead of doing it slowly and steadily.
In such cases, you’ll need to incorporate foods low in protein to your kids diet.
Over a few weeks, increase the healthier portions of the meal and decrease portions of unhealthy sides. This slow but steady dietary progression can help them adjust to a new eating plan without as much pushback.
Decorate The Plate
As simple as it is, the way you present your meals can have a huge impact on how your child sees their food.
To really entice them to finish their plates, get creative and utilize a combination of fun, bright colors in your child’s meal. For instance, you can cut carrots into distinct and unusual shapes instead of leaving them in their usual stick form. The same goes for other fruits and vegetables too.
If you’re cooking a saucy meat dish, you can put your artistry to the test and decorate the plate using the sauce. You can create a funny face or an animal, for instance!
There are endless ways to customize a meal. You can use different food items to create a larger shape too. By getting this done, your child won’t be as repulsed by the food since they won’t immediately associate it with the taste of the vegetable or food item.
Model Positive Eating Behaviors
Children are like sponges in the sense that they absorb the behaviors of their parents, mimicking their actions subconsciously.
This mindset applies to dinner table behavior too. As such, it’s important to model the right behavior by eating the right food in front of them.
After all, if you eat delicious but unhealthy food while forcing your children to eat healthily, they can’t help but feel a sense of betrayal on your part.
Contrarily, by eating the right food, they’ll feel inclined to do the same. This can encourage a positive eating lifestyle for the entire family, which can lead to a healthy environment for both you and your child.
Engage Children in Meal Preparation
Children aren’t acutely aware of the effort it takes to whip up a meal from scratch. If you want them to feel more grateful to eat whatever is on the dinner table, try involving them in the meal preparation process.
You can request aid from them regardless of their age. If your child is still a tot, you can have them wash the fruits and vegetables or stir up ingredients. If they’re older, you can have them perform more sophisticated chores like dicing onions or putting heavy plates into the oven.
By giving them responsibilities in the kitchen, they’ll feel obliged to eat their meals to completion. After all, who wouldn’t want to reap the fruit of their labor?
Mind The Drinks
Does your child sip sugary drinks every day? Do they accompany each meal with a soda or some OJ?
If so, consider treating their habit. Sugary drinks are the biggest contributors to calorie gain among children and teens. This includes soda, fruit punch, lemonade, powdered drinks, and sports drinks.
A lot of parents only look at a child’s eating habits when evaluating a health problem. This can lead to them erroneously leaving sugary drinks out of the equation.
The fact of the matter is that these drinks can add an excess of 200 calories a day for an average kid. This doesn’t also take into account the added sugars and preservatives potentially present in these drinks.
As such, it’s important to teach and correct your child’s drinking habits as soon as you catch it. Have them drink ice-cold water instead of soda or fruit juices. This way, they’ll stay hydrated without the risk of weight gain or abnormally high sugar spikes.
Teach Healthy Values To Your Child
To effectively educate your child about the importance of healthy eating, you as a parent should explain why some foods are to be eaten and why others should be avoided.
Saying “Because I said so,” or something similar as a response to any arising argument shuts down a very important discussion about health. This leaves the child unsure as to why they should be eating healthy.
This might cause them to ignore the importance of healthy eating or continue to eat unhealthy food when you’re not around.
If you want to sustainably instill positive eating habits in your child, it’s important to equip them with the proper mindset towards food.
Teach them how fruits and veggies keep our bodies healthy, how lean meat can help our muscles grow, and how water allows our organs to perform efficiently. This way, they will develop a health-conscious mindset more naturally, which can set them up for more positive health outcomes in the future.