Your child’s eating habits play a vital role in their development and growth. The CDC currently reports that 17% of children, ages 2 to 19 are obese. It is vitally important that we instill in our children an understanding of how important it is that they take care of their bodies, eat healthy nutritious food and avoid poor food choices.
Just as it is difficult for adults to avoid treats, it is often even harder for children to restrict themselves when they are provided so many opportunities to indulge. And in many ways we should allow children to indulge; a sweet ice cream cone on a hot day, a tart lollipop when they skin their knee or a special cupcake on their birthday is an opportunity for them to feel loved and happy. For a child the physical feeling of joy from the sweetness of the candy is overwhelming and if you restrict that or tell them they should not have it they can often interpret that as a message that they are bad or that you don’t love them and thus they don’t deserve it. Those types of feelings could be very traumatic for the child and lead to issues in other areas.
Instead of focusing on what the child should not have, it is often better to focus on what they should have. Encouraging them to do positive and rewarding, instead of scolding them from doing negative, can work wonders.
Below are some of the items we use at The Brook Academy to teach children healthy habits:
- Water – Fresh water should always be available and the child should be encouraged to stay hydrated throughout the day. Soda or other drinks with high fructose corn syrup should not be available on a regular basis. Children usually will prefer to drink juice or other flavored drinks if given the choice. However, if one is truly thirsty then nothing can really replace the thirst quenching properties of water. Cold water should especially be offered when you know the child is truly thirsty, like after they have been out on the playground in the sun for a while, so that the child can learn by his own experience to appreciate the feeling of a great glass of cold water when you are thirsty. He thus may later be able to recall those feelings and will ask for water when truly thirsty.
- Vegetables – The best way to get children to eat vegetables is to show them that you love them and they are a part of every meal you eat. If children see you eating them they will think that they are a normal part of every meal and may be willing to give them a part of their meals. Let the child pick out a different vegetable to try at the grocery store each week and prepare them in kid friendly ways. Ask them which vegetables are their favorites and be sure to prepare those in different ways for them. If they refuse vegetables, then there is really no use fighting them, keep trying but don’t get too frustrated, usually it is just a phase and they will come back around eventually.
- Fruit – It is always significantly easier to get children to eat fruit than vegetables and it generally does not require any concerted effort. Children generally enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit. Fresh fruit should always be encouraged as a snack (instead of chips or candy) or dessert (instead of cakes or cookies). Try new things with fruit; make a variety of fruit shakes, pour chocolate sauce or whip cream on strawberries or freeze bananas.