We’ve all seen the scary statistics on childhood obesity. According to letsmove.gov, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled over the past three decades and unless serious changes happen, “one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives.” Compared to previous generations, our kids face larger portion sizes and more unhealthy processed foods.
Some of the best gifts you can give your child are the tools to grow into an adult who knows how to make good food choices. And if you find yourself slipping into unhealthy food habits, now is the best time to make a change- right alongside your child. We’ve compiled some great tips for eating healthy as a family so you can make 2016 your best food year yet!
Don’t be too sneaky
Pinterest and mom blogs are full of recipes and strategies that involve “hiding” healthy fruits and veggies in kid-approved meals. While undetectable cauliflower in mac and cheese is kind of genius, try fessing up to your kids once they’ve enjoyed their meal. By doing this, you can help promote the idea that previously rejected foods are tasty and your child enjoys them instead of that vegetables are gross and need to be hidden.
Involve kids in cooking
Recent studies have shown that kids who helped prepare a meal are more likely to eat healthier foods. Furthermore, children who helped prep and cook meals were “more confident about the importance of making healthier food choices.” True, your little helper might make a bit of a mess and require supervision, but with a little bit of creativity you should be able to find tasks for your child, no matter their age. Involving your child in the kitchen will also teach them valuable life skills so they’ll be more likely to cook healthy meals once they grow up.
Train your children to know which snacks they need to ask permission to eat (crackers, cookies, bread products, etc.) and which ones they are allowed to grab on their own- fruits and vegetables. Keep healthy snacks front and center on your kitchen counter and refrigerator. When you do say yes to restricted snacks, focus on portion control. Dole out a serving size of crackers into a bowl instead of handing over the whole bag.
Water, Water, Water
We know that sugary sports drinks, juices, and sodas don’t offer many positives to growing bodies. Encourage kids to drink water, and plenty of it, by giving them an insulated, reusable water bottle decorated with a favorite character or design. Try replacing fizzy sodas with carbonated water. Stock your kitchen with silly straws or ice cube shapes- whatever it takes to get them to enjoy water.
Try to eat together as a family as often as possible. Turn off the TV and sit down at the table together. This isn’t just an opportunity to promote physical health. Engaging your child in conversation and encouraging them to share about their day will promote healthy family bonds as well. According to WebMD, making mealtime pleasant will encourage your children to eat slower, providing them the opportunity to detect hunger and fullness better.
Don’t Join the Clean Plate Club
Most of us remember being told we had to finish our entire meal before we could leave the dinner table. But while food waste is a real concern, kids should be encouraged to pay attention to when they feel full. Start with small portions to avoid wasting.
Children don’t need shame or fad diets, but they do need you to teach them healthy eating habits. With these tips, you can help your child to feel better and be healthier, not just in childhood but for the rest of their lives.