In some ways in our culture finding the perfect healthy diet for kids feels more like searching for the Holy Grail. It seems as though every food company spends millions of dollars trying to make sure you don’t stick to a healthy diet. From cereals filled with preservatives and additives to energy and sports drinks filled with sugar, we are constantly surrounded by bad food options.
For some conditions, such as ADHD, we know that diet has an impact on both behavior and development. That’s why you can easily find lists of the worst foods to avoid for such conditions. Still, though, even if your child doesn’t have ADHD, they shouldn’t simply eat anything and everything they want to.
No matter who you are, your diet has a profound impact on your mood, health, and mental processes. We all even know the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” If you put nothing but bad food in yourself, you will only feel tired and crummy and it will impact all you do.
For your kids, you need to start encouraging good eating patterns as early as possible. How do you do this, though? What approach should you take to make sure it sticks? In this article, we talk through the important strategies of how to encourage a healthy diet for kids. We’ll go over what to include and what to avoid and how to get your kids on board.
#1 Model Healthy Eating Yourself
First, encouraging a healthy diet for kids starts with providing a healthy model as a parent. Kids look to their parents and other adults for direction on how they should behave. This applies to what they eat as much as anything else in their life.
In order to start having your kids eat healthier, you have to lead the way. This means taking a long hard look at your current diet and habits. Do you eat well balanced, proportioned, and nutritious meals? Or, do you snack constantly on bad foods and eat low value processed foods at inconsistent times?
When it comes to diet, this is definitely one area where you can’t simply tell your kids “to do as I say, not as I do.” Creating a healthy diet for kids requires everyone in the household eating healthy, including you as the parent. This way, you can go through your pantry and refrigerator and toss out the bad stuff your kids eat as well as what you eat.
After you do your pantry purge, replace everything with healthy alternatives. Then, you need to eat the good foods and show your kids that you enjoy them. They will start picking up on your enthusiasm, which will inspire them to stick to a more healthy approach to eating.
#2 Eat Meals as a Family
A second way to encourage a healthy diet for kids involves eating meals together as a family. In our fast paced constantly moving lives, we hardly have any time to sit down and enjoy time with those we love. Everything becomes simply a means to an end. This is why we scarf down our fast food meals because we just eat to fill our stomachs.
To stop the toxic way we eat, you should shift to making sure you eat at least dinners at home as a family. Additionally, when you eat together, you need to eat at the table without electronics. This means no TVs, no cell phones, and no tablets. Instead of retreating into your electronics you can then focus on the conversation with your family members. Talk to your kids about their day. Enjoy the food you eat together.
Eating in this way does a few things. First, and foremost, it forces you to slow down. You have to actually engage with those around you which prevents you from eating as fast as you can. With slowing down, you naturally eat less. Your body has more time to alert you as you get full. This means you feel full and satisfied without overeating.
Additionally, eating together teaches your kids to appreciate meals and the food that you eat. You show them that food isn’t a means to an end but something to add to your life and to enjoy. This helps to reinforce the idea that eating should be intentional and fit in with your overall health goals.
#3 Get Rid of the Fast Diet
Thirdly, to help encourage a healthy diet for kids, you need to steer clear of always eating on the run. In our fast paced culture, it’s hard for most of us to find time to sit down and actually enjoy a meal. We eat toaster pastries for breakfast so we can eat them as we run out the door. At lunch, we scarf down something we reheat in the microwave. For dinner, we go through the drive thru on the way to the next sporting or community event.
Every meal, we have options for eating on the run. Just because we have the options, though, doesn’t mean that we have to choose them. We just talked about eating meals together as a family. This provides one way to slow down your fast diet. We know, though, that you can’t always eat meals together. Still, though, you can encourage your kids to plan ahead and to budget time in their day to slow down and take time to eat their food.
This goes to the idea of making sure we have healthy consistent routines in our life. Kids especially need routine to provide structure. Build into their routine enough time, 15-30 minutes, to sit down and eat meals. Make sure they get up early enough to have time to eat a breakfast. Ensure that at school they sit down for lunch. For dinner, then, make sure you sit with them.
All these things help to eliminate the fast diet options, which also tend to be the worst options available. With planning ahead enough time to eat, you provide enough time to prepare healthy meals. This seems like such a small change. Ultimately, though, how much time you give to eating can make a large impact on how well you eat.
#4 Cook Meals Together
Fourthly, to both encourage everyone to slow down and encourage a healthy diet for kids, you should cook meals together as a family. For starters, cooking meals together forces you to slow things down. Cooking even simple meals involves planning, getting ingredients, and sitting down to go through instructions. This takes time and forces you to consider the ingredients and the value of what goes into your meal.
Another benefit of cooking meals together is that you give your kids the skills to provide healthy food for themselves. So many children grow up only knowing how to cook using a microwave. As a result, they never learn to prepare healthy meals for themselves. This means that as they enter college or their own adult lives, they simply resort to quick unhealthy meals. After all, they never learned how to plan out, cook, and prepare healthy alternatives.
With cooking meals together, you show your children the value in preparing and planning out a healthy diet. You also teach them how to shop for meals and follow a recipe. All these skills can help them to continue living out and eating a healthy diet well into their adult years.
#5 Provide Healthy Snacks Between Meals
Lastly, you need to remember a healthy diet for kids must involve everything your child eats. This includes snacks between meals. Many times, we think that snacks don’t matter and kids can eat whatever. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
To begin with, growing kids need a constant supply of good fuel. This means everything your child eats matters. Every now and then, your child can have a reward with sweets, but you can’t allow that to be their regular go-to. If your child eats unhealthy snacks on a regular basis, this can lead into impacting their overall diet.
Not only this, but children also usually eat snacks right after they come home from school. Eating an unhealthy snack encourages them to just veg out and not engage. This makes them disconnect and not want to exercise or do homework. Instead of initiating this cycle, you should encourage your child to eat healthy snacks that give them energy to concentrate and want to get and stay active. This can be particularly necessary if your child has ADHD and already struggles with focusing.
Healthy snacks can aid in encouraging overall healthy living. Make sure you send healthy snacks with your kids to school and have them available when they come home from school. For ideas for healthy snacks, you can get some tips at this link and in this article.
Making a Healthy Diet for Kids Easier
The main point here is to make encouraging a healthy diet for kids as easy as possible. Everything else in our culture screams eating and living unhealthy lives. This makes eating healthy difficult for everyone.
At the core, our diets impact nearly everything about our lives. When it comes to kids and their development, a healthy diet can provide the energy they need to grow, concentrate, and succeed. Furthermore, how your child eats can provide such benefits as staving off illnesses such as the flu. This just means that parents need all the tools they can get to fight back against the unhealthy choices that surround us constantly.
Start your toolkit for healthy diets with this article. You shouldn’t stop there, though. You next need to talk your pediatrician and include them in the conversation. Your pediatrician can help with any aspect of your child’s health and can give you further tips and tools to keep your child’s diet on track.