9 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Eat Healthier

Mother and daughter in produce section of supermarket

Encouraging healthy food habits in kids is an ongoing job. Their food habits don’t happen in a vacuum, though. They are influenced by other kids, TV ads, and many other influencers, but most importantly, their family. And mothers perhaps have the greatest influence.

Not only because mother may be the main food provider, but because kids notice and pick up on signals she is projecting about food and eating: what is her attitude about eating? Does she eat her fruit and vegetables? Does she  talk about what foods are healthy and what causes sickness? Can you tell she has a “sweet tooth”? These and other observations influence the food habits of kids.

Here are 9 suggestions on ways you can help kids develop healthy eating habits:

1. Set a good example. Children are observant of what you eat and what signs you send about food likes and dislikes. Check to make sure you are sending the right signals.

2. Serve a wide variety of food. You know what children should be eating, so is it available? Are your meals planned to have the adequate kind of nutrients for children?

3. Involve kids in the process. Encourage children to help you with a recipe. Start them early in setting the table and helping prepare the meal for the family. This is a powerful way of getting kids interested in food.       

4. Encourage sampling. When new and different food is offers, encourage them to eat it by telling them how it will help them, what else it tastes like, or what it will do for them. Convince them to try just one bite of the new food. Treat it as a positive experience.

5. No “sitting at the table until you finish this” routine. Food should always be associated with a positive image and approach. We want children to associate food with good feelings. Keep it positive and make it fun.

6. Encourage their goals of eating healthy. As children get older, they become more health conscience. Help them want to improve their athletic performance or body weight through the amount and kind of food to eat. Encourage and give much positive reinforcement.

7. Keep healthy food available. A drawer in the refrigerator could be a special place for their snacks. Food that is nutritious and easily accessible will be eaten more readily.

8. Let children help with meal planning and shopping. If children can have input into the kinds of food they want, they will be more willing to eat it. Many activities can be associated with the shopping experience, such as finding the food in advertisements and working out the cost of items on their shopping list.

9. Help children to be accepting of their own body. Whether they think they are too skinny or too fat, help them to accept their own body. Words such as “I think you are just right” goes a long way in how children feel about themselves.

I’ve written more on this subject in another blog: Who Shapes Healthy Food Choices for Kids Take a look.  

Whether you realize it or not, you are being watched by your kids.  Do you have a success story of how you have worked on any of these? Care to share? Leave a comment. Would love to hear.

Lee Jackson
Home and Family Networking



How You Spend Your Time


It’s the Wonderful Time of the Year

And by that I mean: evaluate how you spend your time and decide what is important. Embrace a few minutes for yourself every day.

What to Eat and How Much?

Who is the decision-maker when it comes to food choices? Is it the school? government? family? children?

English: A picture of a collection of healthy ...

Ground rules for this go something like this:

Parents should have the final word about what foods are bought and used for meals and snacks. It’s the parents who need to make healthy choices about foods for themselves and their family. This is for foods eaten at home or outside the home. It’s important to choose nutritious foods so that the goal for healthy food is met each day.

Buying crispy vegetables and fruits instead of cookies, chips and dips is a better trade-off. You can find already cleaned carrots, green beans, and grape tomatoes ready-to-eat. Add some raw broccoli and there is enough goodness for a salad or snacks for awhile.

The same can be done for fruits. Some require a little more preparation. For example, cutting up apples and oranges and putting them in little plastic bags or glass dishes in the refrigerator takes more time but is worth it.

Within reason, children should decide on the amount of food they want to eat at meals and snacks. Some guidance may be necessary, depending on the age of the children. Some families are concerned about children eating too much, while others worry about children not eating enough.

Always talk with your child about why they are choosing not to eat. Try to keep the communication open about food.

Eating should be a pleasant experience. Food should not be used as a reward or punishment. Make mealtimes an important and essential part of the day.

To your good health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson
Good nutrition advocate

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Getting Kids in the Kitchen – Preparing and Eating Food

It’s important that children not only learn to appreciate food, but also learn to cook for themselves. Even preschool children can learn how to help with meals and prepare or help cook simple foods.

Teaching children to cook is probably the best way to get kids to eat right and respect food. The whole point of getting them in the kitchen and involved is to get them to feel and taste the food. Let them use their sense of smell, taste, and touch. Children need to be exposed to different foods several times before they will taste it. Preparing it themselves increases their interest and desire to try it.

Children love the experience of mixing, stirring, and chopping, depending on age. Let them discover the joy of creating delicious, healthy dishes by encouraging them to help you.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to get dinner going with your young help, is to work together preparing roasted vegetables. For this you and the children scrub the vegetables well and then cut them up into about same-size pieces. This can be foods such as potatoes (white or sweet), carrots, onion, garlic, green and red pepper, celery, mushrooms, squash, broccoli and others.

Then the children can dribble a little virgin olive oil over them, stir well to distribute the oil, and splash a little balsamic vinegar over them, along with a little salt and fresh ground pepper.

Spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or other large flat pan. Roast in 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Using a long handled spatula, you need to stir them periodically to keep them from sticking to the bottom.

They will come out with a nice dark color, perhaps more brown in places, but crispy, and oh, so good.

Even though you start with a large quantity of vegetables, the children will be amazed how much  smaller the portion is after roasting. Take time to explain here the reason for this.

Grilled vegetables

You may want to add a protein to the meal, such as cooked chicken, hamburger, or roast beef. Or you can just sprinkle shredded Parmesan or Cheddar cheese over the vegetables and you and your helpers have just prepared a one dish meal for your family.

Let’s stay healthy,

Lee Jackson
Child nutrition advocate, author

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Is this the Year for Weight Loss?

My Weight Loss Coach

Image via Wikipedia

January is almost over and I haven’t said anything about one of the most challenging resolutions: losing weight. Every year we say this, perhaps, but will this be THE YEAR? This might be a goal to consider not only for adults but for children, too.

If you as an adult set your goal very high, it may not be very realistic. Make it reasonable. Think how much better any amount of weight loss will make you feel.

What are some of the simple ways to do this? Here is a start:

Eat only half a sandwich or slice of toast. Choose half a serving of pasta and cut the potato in half. Cutting down on carbs really works. If dessert is being served, cut that in half, too. If eating out, share a serving with another member of your party, if the establishment allows. Most restaurants serve way too much food.

Are you still hungry in the evening? First drink a glass of water and see whether that helps. Exercising and staying busy also helps to occupy the mind and turn it away from food.

I would be happy to hear of other ways you found that keep you focused on your goal.

Best to you,

Lee Jackson
Food and Family Living

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