Nutritious meals and snacks are essential for children to grow up healthy. Because they have smaller stomachs than adults do, growing children need to eat every two to three hours. This is how they get the energy they need to learn, play, and do well in school. Your child naturally looks to you for cues about food, whether you eat a balanced diet or are a little too fond of junk food.
If it feels like you’re fighting a losing battle getting your son or daughter to eat healthy snacks, try one or all of of these ten tips:
- If your own snacking choices are unhealthy, determine to make better choices and set a good example for your child.
- Along the same lines, purge your home of junk food and replace it with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and reduced fat dairy products. Your kids can only eat what you buy and they will adjust in time.
- Most kids love it when you shake things up a bit, so try serving traditional breakfast items as a healthy afternoon snack alternative. Some possible alternatives include hot oatmeal mixed with cinnamon or raisins and nuts mixed in with plain, dry cereal.
- If your child isn’t used to eating healthy food very often, he or she may complain that the taste is too bland at first. Show your child that eating healthier doesn’t have to be boring by offering peanut butter, ranch dressing, or low-fat yogurt as a dipping sauce.
- Approach healthy eating as a family adventure. Be sure to try new foods yourself and let your child see you doing it. If you don’t like the food, be honest about your reaction and try something else.
- Whenever time permits, allow your child to be creative with food. This could mean making shapes with a cookie cutter or arranging food on a plate to make a funny face.
- If you allow your child the occasional treat, make sure to enforce a limit on how often this is permissible. Some families say only on special occasions like birthday parties while others opt for a weekly less nutritious snack.
- Don’t allow your children to have a snack anywhere but the kitchen. This helps with the association of eating with one specific area of the house only.
- Praise your son or daughter for making healthy food choices without prompting from you. This not only encourages independence, it helps you relax knowing your child will make similar choices when you’re not around.
- Become an expert at reading labels in the supermarket. Food manufacturers often advertise snacks geared at children as nutritious but the labels tell a different story.
It’s Never Too Late
If your child is overweight and you are afraid the stage is already set for a lifetime of poor eating habits, make a change today. In addition, decide to get active together as a family. It won’t be easy, but your child is more likely to succeed when you model healthy food and activity choices yourself.