Want to get your kids involved in making smart eating decisions? It’s about more than limiting access to unhealthy options. It’s also about educating our kids about nutrition so it doesn’t feel like a punishment. We can do this in simple, everyday ways.
Here are five suggestions for parents to involve kids in healthy eating:
1. Focus on the presentation
Present fruit and veggie snacks in an appealing way to attract kids to them. Slice apple wedges and offer peanut butter to dip, which makes them fun to eat. Try dips with veggies too – whether low-fat salad dressing or hummus. Use cookie cutters to shape whole grain bread sandwiches or arrange fruit and veggie snacks so they look like faces or animals etc. Have fun and experiment!
2. Make ‘snack swaps’
Replace less healthy snacks with more nutrient-rich options. Swap popsicles for frozen bananas or grapes. Or rather than pretzels, try nuts and fruit. Dried fruit can work as a sweet swap for candy as well. It’s also better to give kids snacks when they say they’re hungry rather than giving it to them as a ritual at the same time each day. This helps them pay attention to their appetites.
3. Involve your kids
To get your children interested in healthy snacking, enlist their help. They can arrange pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet for baking, make their own mini pizzas or put together low-fat cheese and cracker sandwiches. They can make fun arrangements of fruit and veggies on their own plates as well.
4. Offer sweet, less healthy treats too
If you make healthy snacking fun, you can sometimes offer your kids sweets. If you don’t do it all time, offering a cupcake or sugar cookie on occasion can keep your kids from feeling deprived. Just be careful not to ever use unhealthy snacks as a reward, which isn’t how you want kids to view these foods.
5. Tell a story
Explain to your kids how food fuels their bodies and helps them think. They need to fuel up at breakfast and refuel at lunch. Be imaginative. You can explain that not eating right can eventually make their hearts work harder and slow them down when they play. Or encourage them to draw pictures showing how food gives their bodies energy.
Remember, even if you haven’t served your kids the healthiest foods at home, it’s never too late to start. When you think of the chronic diseases that are preventable, including heart disease and diabetes, working with your family to maintain a healthy diet and weight couldn’t be more worth it.