Childhood obesity is a serious problem throughout the United States. In fact, 20 percent of school-aged children in the U.S. are currently obese, and many more are overweight.
Even if your child is not overweight or obese, it’s still important to teach them about the importance of healthy eating. What’s more, you also need to make sure you’re modeling healthy eating behaviors for them. Remember, kids will learn based on what you do, not by what you say.
Read on to learn more about how you can start instilling healthy eating habits in your children. Whether you’re raising kids who are toddlers or teenagers, these tips will help you establish healthy habits and promote better overall family health.
Importance of Healthy Habits for Children
Okay, you can see why you need to start teaching your kids healthy eating habits sooner rather than later. How do you actually get started, though?
The good news is that, in a lot of cases, you don’t have to make major parenting changes. Some simple adjustments to your current lifestyle can have a significant impact on your kids.
Here are three ideas that are great starting points:
Eat as a Family
Eating together as a family is a great way to start talking to your kids about healthy eating and start a dialogue around healthy habits.
Research shows that families who eat together tend to eat less. They also tend to eat more slowly and enjoy their food more. This, in turn, leads to greater feelings of satiety.
When you eat together as a family, you also have a chance to connect with your kids and talk to them about other steps they (and you) can take to feel happier, healthier, and more energetic.
Get Your Kids Involved in Food Prep
Your kids may be more inclined to eat healthy food if they get to have a hand in making it. Take your kids with you to the grocery store or farmer’s market and allow them to help you pick out the fruits, vegetables, and other healthy items you’ll purchase for the week.
Let them spend time in the kitchen preparing the food, too. This helps them take a sense of pride in what they’re eating, and they gain a new appreciation for the work that goes into the food they enjoy each evening.
Talk Openly to Your Kids
It’s important to have honest and open conversations with your kids about healthy eating and healthy living, too.
Talk to them about why things like sugar and processed foods can be problematic and shouldn’t be a regular installment in their diets. The more they know, the more empowered they can be to take action and make changes and positive choices themselves.
Try to expand the conversation beyond weight and calories, too. Talk to them about how certain foods may cause them to feel tired or give them stomachaches. Focus on health and use positive language. Avoid shaming or criticizing your child during these talks.
The transition to healthier eating may not go smoothly at first, especially if your kids have been eating a certain way for a long time. If you experience resistance when you introduce these healthier lifestyle habits to your kids, try these troubleshooting tips:
Slow Your Role
It may be tempting to dive in headfirst and totally overhaul you and your family’s diet. Try to start slowly, though. Focus on adding instead of taking away, too. Start adding a vegetable to the nightly meal or adding fresh fruit to their lunches. Over time, you can start to crowd out the less healthy food with healthier options.
Don’t give up if your kids don’t have positive responses right away. It’ll take time for them to adjust and get used to this new way of eating. Be patient, but also be consistent. Don’t back down from your stance just because your kids complain about having to eat more vegetables or having less junk food in the cupboards.
Lead By Example
Make sure you’re leading by example, too. If you want your kids to eat healthfully and have a healthy relationship with food, you need to model that for them. If they see you eating healthy food, exercising, and taking steps to improve your overall health and well-being, they’ll be more inclined to follow suit.
Start Teaching Kids Healthy Eating Habits Today
Instilling healthy eating habits in your kids can seem like a daunting task at first. This is especially true if you’re just barely starting to get into healthy eating and your kids have gotten used to a high-sugar high-in-processed-foods diet.