Children can be very fussy eaters, so it is crucial to instill good eating habits early on. If you’ve been wondering how to improve your child’s eating habits, this blog post is for you.
Developing good eating habits for your child can be challenging territory to tread. The effort to make your child eat healthier often assumes the form of a power struggle. No matter how hard parents try - children, being children, often revolt. This translates to poor eating habits in kids, reflecting late into adulthood causing them to suffer from various health-related diseases.
The key takeaway is that the power struggle doesn’t need to exist in the first place. Children’s eating habits can be reformed effectively, given that parents show equal and conscious participation.
Developing good eating habits for kids isn’t a far-fetched dream anymore. On the contrary, it's quite achievable. In this blog post, we will be discussing exactly that!
Nurturing a love for Nutritious food
It is a given that your child’s eating habits won’t improve on their own. Children acquire their earliest beliefs and values from their parents. Then it becomes obvious that as parents, you must be active participants in improving their eating habits. Given below are 4 simple ways that can help you improve your child’s eating habits.
Practice patience when introducing new foods to your child
Kids are usually most dramatic when they are introduced to new food items. And who can blame them? It can be a scary experience to try something new. It’s human nature to be skeptical towards ‘new’ things. It is essential to practice patience during these times, especially for their first few meals. It takes time to adapt & adjust to new changes.
We suggest taking it one step at a time. Instead of feeding them an entire plate or bowl of something new, start with tiny chunks. Help your kids get acquainted with the taste. Try it yourself in front of them to make them feel more comfortable. The next step is to slowly start serving it with other foods your kids already like. Encourage them to focus on colors and smells, rather than solely on the taste. The more curious they grow, the more likely they are willing to eat it, even if they don’t love the taste at first.
Don’t force your kids to eat when they don’t have an appetite.
It can be a huge struggle for parents to convince their children to eat when they refuse. The answer is simple; you don’t. If your child tells you they don’t want to eat, you must respect that. We understand that everyone has a busy schedule, but it's very important for children to feel like they are being heard. Don’t try and bribe them to eat by promising them chocolates or toys either. This will only give them an excuse to continue making a fuss so they can get more gifts. Moreover, mealtime can make your child anxious, and the bribing system can develop into eating disorders in the future.
Our suggestion is to listen to your child when they refuse. It usually means they lack the appetite to eat. Of course, sometimes they’re just too busy playing but as a parent, start paying close attention to know when their last meal was. This should help you understand enough time has passed for them to feel hungry again. If they still refuse, despite being hungry, start serving them small portions to avoid overwhelming them. Allow your child to continue playing and give them small bites to eat in between. In no time, you’ll notice that they will start to ask for more food on their own.
One of the best things you can do for your child is to debunk the myth that healthy foods cannot be tasty. Most of the time, kids refuse to opt for healthier alternatives because they have a preconceived notion that ‘healthy’ equals ‘not tasty’. There are plenty of adults who will refuse to eat healthy food because they dislike the taste, so it’s not fair to force your child to eat something you wouldn’t eat yourself. In the same way, forcing your kids to eat healthy food of your liking won’t do the trick either.
The best way to go about it is to offer multiple options to your kids. Just having more options will make your kid more eager to try everything on the plate. Try to swap the unhealthy foods with the healthier version of the same. For example, swap potato chips with homemade banana chips, packaged juices with fresh homemade juices, artificially sweetened yogurt with homemade yogurt and topping them with fresh fruits, etc. This will help them realize that healthy foods can be delicious as well!
Shopping, cooking, and eating - do all of it together.
Have you ever noticed how kids love being involved in the process of anything their parents are doing? Whether it be building pillow-forts, erecting a tent, walking the dog, or even watching TV shows they don’t fully understand. The same goes for cooking.
Involving your kids in the process of meal preparation is a great way to learn about your child’s food preferences. Involve them in the process completely, minus the dangerous bits like cutting vegetables or working with fire. Ask questions about why they want to cook a certain vegetable or avoid a different one. Kids love it when their parents entrust them with responsibility because that encourages them to behave responsibly. You can take this opportunity to modify your child’s preferences if you feel they’re dominantly unhealthy and make sure to explain why you aren’t using what they suggest instead of just saying ‘no’. This allows you to teach them about nutrition early and understand the importance of eating right. This can reinforce the values of healthy eating in kids while also helping them feel a sense of achievement.
Healthy eating doesn’t come easy. We struggle with it as adults, so we can’t blame kids if they prefer unhealthy foods. But consistent effort and putting sustainable methods in place will go a long way in helping build better habits for your children. Remember, you can’t expect kids to comply with you if you become the enemy. Befriend them and help them befriend healthy food choices simultaneously.