Healthy eating habits start early
Studies show that children's lifetime habits form long before adulthood, with many of their routines and perspectives on how to navigate the world formed as early as five years old. This means that what you allow your child to put in his or her mouth today can greatly influence the eating choices he or she will make decades later. With optimal life-long health in mind, following are nine tips for teaching your child to eat well.
1. Set a good example.
The notion of practicing what you preach was never more important than with eating habits. If you binge diet, live on fast food, skip meals, or regularly down sodas and juice in front of your child, you're teaching her bad habits-even if you keep her on a healthier diet.
2. Cook with your child.
Part of being a healthful adult is knowing how to feed yourself healthy foods, meaning whole foods and fresh, quality ingredients combined and cooked for solid nutrition. If your child doesn't learn how to cook at home, he's less likely to be comfortable in the kitchen when he's on his own. Give him a foundation in cooking now and he'll have it for the rest of his life. You can take it a step further and grow an edible garden together, too. Kids love eating things they made themselves!
3. Take your kid shopping with you and buy healthier ingredients and products.
Not all breads are created equal. Ditto sauces, cereals, flours, beverages, and even treats. If you take your child grocery shopping with you, you can not only teach her about all the different fruits, vegetables, and meats available, but also discuss why you choose your healthier items over less nutritional selections.
4. Keep healthy snacks accessible.
Every parent knows that the minute their child gets hungry, it's priority number-one to get food in his mouth, especially if they want to avoid cranky tantrums. The problem is, many parents reach for readymade stuff, most of which is not that good for them or your kids. The solution to this problem is to have healthy snacks on hand-and even easily accessible to your child. Stocking up on apples, peanut butter, trail mix, cheese, crackers, and other grab-and-go items and putting them within reach make healthy snacking easy.
5. Don't keep junk food around.
One healthy-eating tip all nutritionists and dieticians recommend is to keep your kitchen free of junk food. After all, if chips, cookies, ice cream, and other unhealthy items are not readily available, you and your child are less likely to ask for them, never mind eat them.
6. Don't make a habit of eating in front of the TV.
It's not just adults that mindlessly eat while engrossed in what's on the tube. Kids are equally susceptible to getting in this bad habit if left unsupervised. Eating should be a conscious activity not only because meal time is a great opportunity for family bonding, but also because everyone feels fuller and more satisfied when they actually savor and are aware of what they eat while they are eating it.
7. Don't use food for punishments or rewards.
So many people have food hang-ups the last thing you want to do is set your child up for the same fate. Eating food should always be focused on you helping your child nourishing his or her body when it needs nourishment. Repeated scenarios where food is a reward or punishment may result in similar habits as an adult. And surely you don't want your child to celebrate his every accomplishment with a half of a chocolate cake!
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