Parents lead by example. Parents need to make healthy food choices so their children will learn to eat healthily. Parents also need to make sure they don't skip meals or go too long without eating. Portion size matters too. According to kidshealth.org, overeating is a common problem. Make healthy food choices and your children will follow. Teaching children good eating habits from the beginning is best but even if they are teenagers, it isn't too late to improve their diet and yours.
Why it is important for parents to eat healthy around their children
Eating healthy is important to maintain a healthy body weight and aids in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Eating a healthy diet can improve focus and help your children do better in school. The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture's MyPlate provides guidance of what and how much adults and children should eat to maintain a healthy diet. A healthy diet is high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and also contains smaller portions of dairy and lean proteins.
Lead by example
If your child sees you skip breakfast, they may question its importance. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention skipping breakfast can affect a child's ability to learn. It decreases their alertness, memory and ability to pay attention. The CDC also states that the lack of nutrients can negatively impact children's ability to learn. Keep healthy foods at home. Don't buy things like soda, potato chips, and other items high in added sugars and sodium.
Eliminate or limit fast food meals. When unavoidable choose healthier options like a salad without a bunch of fatty caloric extras.
Keep healthy foods on hand
Snack foods are often when people consume empty calories and grease. Have quick healthy snack foods on hand such as apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi fruit, carrots, cucumbers, and celery. Make or buy healthy dips such as hummus, and a tahini or yogurt and dill salad dressings. Also, keep a variety of nut and seed butter on hand for dipping and spreading. Be vigilant with reading labels and skip products with large amounts of added sugar, sodium and oil. Raw and dry roasted unsalted nuts or seeds are a quick protein packed snack. Plain yogurt and low-sodium cottage cheese pair well with fresh fruit for an easy and healthy snack.
Get your children involved
For older children who may resist a change in diet, talk to them about the importance of eating healthy and how it will be beneficial for the whole family. Enlist their help in meal planning and grocery lists. Get them in the kitchen to help prepare meals. A review of studies where children ages 5 to 12 took cooking classes shows that it increased their likelihood to eat healthier, it was published in the CDC's Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy.
Fortify your pantry
Replace highly processed snacks and dried goods for versions with lower sugars. Start buying whole-grain pasta, be sure to read the labels to verify that it is made from 100 percent whole wheat. Try options made from quinoa, edamame, brown rice and lentils. Add other whole grains such as barley, millet, quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat. Replace white rice with brown, black or wild rice for more nutrients.
If you keep healthy foods on hand and do your best to make sure that you eat these too, you will provide your children with a good example of healthy eating. An article in U.S. News and World Report-Health gave advice from a researcher and mother, Jennifer Orlet Fisher, who recommended that parents keep trying. Data shows that it can take five to ten or even more exposures to get children to try a new food. She also recommended against pushing or bribing children to try new foods because it can cause them to have negative memories associated with the foods.
Just keep trying. Even if they won't touch carrots the first five times they are on their plate keep trying. Try cooking them different ways or pairing raw vegetables with a variety of healthy dips like hummus or a Greek yogurt dip. Add some extra vegetables to your family's favorite meals. Add steamed broccoli to macaroni and cheese. Substitute whole wheat or other whole grain pasta. Setting a good example of healthy eating will help your children to be healthier in the future.