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How to Help Your Kids Make Healthy Food Choices

22 Jul 2015 – 12:00 PM EDT

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Believe it or not, it is actually possible to teach your kids to make healthy food choices and give them the tools for a healthier lifestyle as they grow into tweens, teenagers and then adults.

Some kids naturally like healthier foods and certain dishes their Mom or Dad makes because they are used to it and it feels like “home” whenever they eat it. Other kids tend to gravitate towards everything and anything with sugar in it. If your child eats healthy meals from day one they will like what you give them, but once you put something high in sugar and white flour on the table, they may crave that first. Here are a few ways you can help your kids to make healthy food choices now, and for the future.

Give Them Smaller Portions

Sometimes parents load tons of food on their child’s dish in the hopes that they will hungrily eat it all. Putting too much on a child’s dish may overwhelm them and they may not eat at all, or they may feel they have to eat every last bite, which can lead to food issues down the road. Give your children smaller portions and let them know that they can always have seconds if they still feel hungry after eating what’s on their plate.

Encourage Them to Try New Dishes

If your child hates green vegetables, hide them in a new dish like a cheesy casserole or beef stew. They may start to enjoy them if they are mixed in with other ingredients and flavors. By encouraging your children to try new dishes, you are opening their world to more choices and tastes. It may be a trial and error period, and you may get some scrunched up gloomy looks when they don’t like the new vegetable-friendly quiche you made, but keep trying and they’ll eventually love something you make.

Make Sure They Practice Conscious Eating

Turn off the TV, take away technical devices and phones, and make sure your kids are eating with awareness. The more aware that kids are during the time they take their first bites, the more they will appreciate what they are eating. Engage in conversation at the table which allows for those fast eaters to slow down and eat at a casual pace, and let your kids know that meal time is family time. No TVs, no texting and no Facebook.

Monitor Snacking

Kids love to snack and if they are running around all day being active and playing sports, we can see why. They need the snack boost to keep their energy up. It is very important for parents to monitor the snacking activities of their child. If they are constantly going back and forth to the fridge, sitting in front of the TV with a bag of chips in the middle of the day, or eating late at night when everyone has settled in for the night, they may have something else going on that is bothering them. Give your kids a snack schedule. Give them examples of things they can make so they know what is an appropriate snack for their age range.

Kids will learn to make smarter food choices if they have some tools to work with and if they know what is unhealthy and healthy for them. You can also set an example of healthy eating patterns that they will eventually follow. It’s a win-win situation when it comes to staying healthy.