Help Along Healthy Eating Habits
You’ve experienced a lot of changes over the last year or so — learning how to eat for a healthy pregnancy, breastfeeding, and now making healthy eating part of your family traditions. Take a moment to think about all of the positive changes you’ve made and the healthy habits you’ve adopted.
You Are The Example
You are one of your child’s only links to the outside world. He or she will look to you to learn what is expected when it comes to food, physical activity, hygiene … everything! If you are still rewarding yourself with unhealthy foods or trying fad or crash diets, you could be teaching your child that these behaviors are expected of him. If you eat breakfast every day, snack smart, enjoy being active, and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich grains, he will see those as behaviors he wants to try.
Keep these tips in mind as you continue your healthy living journey:
Assume he will like it
Treat every new food like a new adventure. And even if your child refuses at first, continue to give him opportunities to try it. Let him see you enjoying it and give him a chance to help make it. Talk about the way the food tastes, smells, looks and feels. The creaminess of hummus, the color of kiwi, or the sound of a crunchy new cereal makes meal or snack time come alive.
Make it obvious
Instead of mixing in a new food with something you know your child already likes, give him a chance to see it and learn what it tastes like.
Expose him as much as possible
Talk about the way food looks and smells when your child joins you on a shopping trip. Read books about different foods or foods from different countries.
Lay out some ground rules
You are not a short order cook. As children get older and decide what their favorite foods are, they will start asking for them more often. Remember, you decide what is being served and when, while they decide how much they need to eat by listening to their bodies. Consider having a “try it” rule, insisting they at least try one or two bites before excusing themselves from the table. If they are hungry, they will eat. If they learn they can get you to make them something else if they hold out long enough, they may not try new foods in the future.
Don’t use dessert as a bribe
It is tempting to bargain with your children and promise them they can have dessert if they finish their vegetables or their plates, but that can send the message the healthy choices are bad and the dessert is good. On that note, do your best to make sure dessert is a wholesome choice as often as possible, serving fruit, yogurt and other nutritious choices.
Let your child help with meals and snacks
Letting your toddler watch you cook, having older children count ingredients, or having your child help you stir or pour as you cook are great ways to get them interested in trying new things.
Once your child is old enough to describe what they are thinking, ask them why they don’t like certain foods. Ask what they think the food tastes like or how it feels in their mouth. Their answer might help you learn different ways of cooking the food so that they might like.
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