Most parents feel that their child could be a better eater. Many parents report that their child does not eat enough fruits and vegetables and eats too many foods that are high-fat and overly processed. For that reason, meal times can become a burden for the entire family. When there is a lot of focus surrounding body image, meal time, and food preferences in a family, meal times often escalate to arguments, children begin to hoard foods, and body weight starts to become an issue.
Less is more when it comes to raising healthy eater. Here are 10 tips on how to raise a healthy eater:
- Be a role model by eating from all 5 food groups yourself and not talking negatively about any food in particular.
- Talk less about body image and being “healthy” at the dinner table or around food in general. Food should be eaten, not talked about.
- Ask your children to participate in meal preparation by cutting the vegetables, mixing the salad or pasta, stirring the spaghetti sauce, or help bring food to the table.
- Put foods in the middle of the table so that everyone has to serve him or herself. Be sure to help yourself to all of the food items on the table so that your children see you enjoying them.
- Even if your child doesn’t want to help himself to a particular food, ask that he participate in meal time by passing the food item to someone when they ask for it.
- Invite other healthy eaters over so your kids can see others enjoying healthy foods
- Bring the kids to the grocery store with you so that they can participate in the food buying experience.
- Ask your children to help you plan the weekly menu and be sure that there is a vegetable, whole grain, and lean protein at each meal. Show them what the foundation of a good meal is and ask them to help you
- Speak neutrally about foods in general. No food is “good” or “bad,” it just is. Explain how some foods offer your body more of what it needs and some foods offer your body less of what it needs.
- Know that it is normal for children to “over eat” some days and “under eat” other days. Their hunger and satiety cues are like no other and far better than the hunger and satiety cues of an adult. Trust your child’s ability to eat for his or her body. Your job is to provide healthful meals, but your child’s job is to eat what and how much of it he or she wants.
For more information on raising healthy eaters, visit the Ellyn Satter Institute at http://ellynsatterinstitute.org