Starting a healthy diet is never too late for a person who wants to change their life for the better, but it’s best if it begins in childhood. The experience and relationship children have with food when they are young will have a profound effect on the attitude they will have towards food and their eating habits as adults.
As our lives have become busier, our food choices and eating habits have fallen by the wayside – processed, pre-packaged foods reign supreme in a world where we’re all time-poor, and parents struggle to feed their families when they’re in a hurry. Still, we must not forget that our kids health depends a lot on the food we feed them. Teaching the basics of healthy eating is definitely one of the best gifts we can give our children. How to start a healthy kids diet? It’s actually easier than some of us may think, you just need to be committed and make that start or change today!
1. Be a role model: Change your shopping habits and involve your kids
The mere thought of a trip to the supermarket with the kids is enough to send most parents running for the hills. The constant nagging “Mum can we pleeease have this?!” or “Mum you’re so mean, you never let us have that!” makes food shopping far from fun for parents and children alike.
So how can you avoid the shopping headache and turn grocery shopping into a fun family adventure? The trick is to get their buy-in, by getting them involved in the whole process – from planning meals, to shopping for the ingredients, so there’s plenty the kids can do, enough to keep their attention. Beforehand, give them a handful of recipe books or magazines which contain wholesome recipes and let them decide on a dish or two for dinner during the week, older kids can be tasked with making the shopping list and finding everything on it, once they’re in the supermarket. Children of any age can be shown how to select fresh over old apples, or how to spot a crispy lettuce, count the number of carrots their parents need, or help put the oranges in the bag.
Overall, the opportunities to involve your little ones are many, and it will definitely help them build a positive and right attitude on shopping, and cooking with nutritious ingredients.
2. Serve single portions
Kids will be kids, and have less self-control whatsoever when it comes to foods they love – especially junky snack foods like chips and cookies. What you could do is control the portion size. Do this by offering them only 1 or 2 cookies or a few pieces of chips, every time they want to nibble on something like that. If you’re one of those parents who keeps ready made heat and eat meals in the fridge or freezer, then portion them off before storing. For example, instead of leaving the entire pizza in the fridge to cool, leave single slices to deter overeating. Those tactics are worth applying when you want to prevent or break your child’s gluttony habit.
3. Add more fruits and vegetables to your kid’s daily meal
We all know that eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables should be an essential part of our diet. Tots need the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes for their proper growth and development, and for resisting viruses and bacteria. However, it’s often no easy task getting kids to eat their fruits and veggies, most of the little rascals go through a stage of being fussy eaters who refuse to touch certain fruits or vegetables.
That’s OK, just try offering a certain food again at a later stage, of perhaps consider trying different preparation methods to increase appeal. For instance, thread fresh bite size pieces of raw veg/fruit on skewers, or offer fresh fruits with a creamy yoghurt dip. Whatever you do, it’s important to keep trying and don’t give up, some kids are indeed very stubborn, but with the right approach, they too can learn to appreciate real food!
4. Increase calcium intake
Growing kids need lots of calcium to build strong, healthy bones and teeth. Teach your children which foods are good sources of calcium, and how many servings of calcium rich foods they need to consume daily.
Dairy products are the most obvious source. However, it may not be the best choice from a health point of view, because there are side effects of too much dairy intake. And while organic yogurt or pure organic cheese are ok to consume in moderate amounts every now and then, you would do well to opt for other calcium-containing foods like: green leafy veggies, fish varieties with edible bones (such as salmon), and seeds and nuts (such as almonds, brazil nuts, chia, and sesame seeds).
Encourage youngsters to be responsible for choosing foods and snacks that will see them getting their daily recommended intake.
5. Pack more dietary fiber in your kid’s meals
Don’t overlook the importance of high fiber foods in your children’s diet. They will not only keep their tummies full, but they’ll also go a long way towards ensuring your child a regular bowel movement, preventing constipation, and low levels of insulin resistance, which is one of the key points when it comes to preventing diabetes. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables are all excellent sources of dietary fiber. Note that it’s also important to drink lots of water when high fiber foods are present in the diet, so make sure your kids have access to, and urge them to drink plenty of fresh water.