Establishing healthy eating habits with children at a young age is not only important to ensure they are getting the right nutrients they need, but it also will help them maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. Poor nutrition can lead to obesity and can cause serious health problems. First and foremost, it is easier to maintain a healthy weight as opposed to losing weight. If your child maintains healthy eating habits and a healthy weight at a young age, they are more than likely going to continue making health conscious choices and remain at a healthy weight as an adult. With obesity comes the likelihood of your child experiencing some type of health issue. Health issues can include poor self-esteem, sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, and bone, and joint problems. These health issues may also continue throughout their lives and have long-term effects into adulthood.
For children, it is not only important to ensure they are meeting their nutrient requirements, but it is also essential to expose them to a variety of healthy foods. Research shows that children who are exposed to a variety of nutritious meal and snack options at a young age are more likely to continue choosing to eat healthier as adults. At Educational Playcare, one of our Core Values is Wellness. That is why we offer a variety of nutritious snacks each morning and afternoon, and a nutritious lunch each day. Our menu includes fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables and high-quality protein sources, too.
Encouraging healthy eating habits is essential for your child’s health. Here are 5 ways families can begin encouraging these habits at home:
- Be a Role Model: One of the easiest ways to encourage a healthy lifestyle is to make healthy choices yourself, though this doesn’t mean never eating something that is considered unhealthy. By making an effort to eat healthy and by getting and staying active, you are setting an example for your child and it will be something they will recognize as important.
- Family Dinners at Home: Instead of eating out at a restaurant or ordering take out, make an honest effort to cook more meals at home and enjoy them as a family. Not only is cooking at home a definite way to ensure your family is eating healthy ingredients, but you also are able to see how much of what your child is eating. By making sure they are eating a hearty meal, your child is less likely to snack throughout the day.
- Plan Ahead: Trying to come up with meals and snacks to serve throughout the week can be difficult, especially when trying to juggle all of the other things that come with being a parent. Instead of figuring out what to prepare daily, plan ahead! Pick a day and plan out what meals you want to prepare for the week, so that you can compile a grocery list and have everything you need. Preparing snacks ahead of time is another great way to ensure that if your family does need to munch on something in between meals, there are healthier options available for them.
- Involve Your Children: Whether it is grocery shopping or cooking dinner, involving your children provides families opportunities to talk about nutrition. While grocery shopping, try giving your child the chance to choose a meal for dinner each week or to pick sides for dinner. While you’re preparing dinner, find age-appropriate tasks and allow your children to help. This will not only provide them with a sense of accomplishment, but they may be more open to trying new foods that they’ve helped to choose and prepare.
- Don’t Give Up: Your child may not start making nutritious decisions and choosing healthy foods right away. Families may see that children don’t enjoy eating certain foods, but that doesn’t mean families should stop trying to serve them. Research shows that it can take up to 10 times for a child to try and a new food before they decide that they like it. Some families may find that preparing the food in different ways may also help their child to become more open to trying new foods.