Healthy eating is a mix of good habits and little tricks that can make a world of difference. The most important aspect is to be consistent and create rituals for habits to stick in time.
Read on if you do not want to scream, “eat your broccoli!” until they leave for college.
Healthy Eating Starts With You
Sure, life can be busy sometimes. How often did you have to run errands, complete something urgent at work, pick up the kids, drive kids to sports practices, and try to fit everything in a twenty-four-hour day?
Let’s be honest; family schedules can be extremely tight, leaving little space for cooking or even sitting down, let alone eating at regular times.
Yet, young children like rituals and predictability.
The truth is that establishing healthy eating habits starts with you and the control you have over schedules. Eating at regular times and taking the time to sit down around a table as a family is the first step.
Remember that you are your child’s most important reference, and your toddler or preschooler will mimic everything you do. If your child sees that you are putting a lot of attention and emphasis on eating at regular hours and that meals are ritualized, they will adopt your approach.
The same thing goes for the food you eat. If you do not eat fruits and vegetables and all you have is on-the-go convenience foods and snacking chips and candy all the time, your child will simply follow your lead.
So, establishing a solid role model base is essential. Always try to think about the message you want to send across. It will be challenging to convince your child if your meal plans are nutritionally imbalanced most of the time. In other words, lead by example and establish healthy food habits as a family value.
Then Healthy Eating Trickles Down
If being a role model is very important, involving your kids in adopting a lifestyle is the next step. The good news is that young children are naturally curious, and nothing is easier than involving a young child.
Try to engage with your young child. Have your kid help shop for food at your local store, help set the table for dinner, or mix ingredients. In other words, involve them in the process with safe, age-appropriate tasks.
If they go to daycare or preschool, get them to choose between what to eat for their snack and lunch. For instance, give a choice between strawberries and apples. Kids love to decide, and it also helps them become independent thinkers and make healthy choices for themselves.
Things like healthy eating become habits that will last a lifetime if you persist and show consistency. That said, do not fall into extremes or create anxiety and turn food and nutrition into a conflict or perpetual negotiation.
Maintain A Healthy Mindset and Lifestyle
One thing is for sure, expect a lot of resistance and crisis from your kiddo once you shift to eating healthy. Moving from frequent burgers, fries, mac’n’cheese, and pizza to balanced healthy meals with vegetables and proteins will not be welcomed, and there is nothing abnormal about getting some pushback.
Adjusting your mindset, lifestyle, and approach to eating healthy is a pathway to better living. But that pathway is not smooth if it involves profound changes. There will be a time of adjustment for sure. That said, keeping in sight your family and life goals of eating healthy will help you achieve these goals with consistency. Here are a few points that may help you achieve these goals:
As per the CDC, in 2019-2020, “[...] the prevalence of obesity was 19.7% and affected about 14.7 million children and adolescents [...] Obesity prevalence was 12.7% among 2- to 5-year-olds”
It means that healthy eating of nutritious food should start as early as possible, and there is a pivotal role that you can play as a parent.
Remember that the development of the human brain requires all essential nutrients to form and maintain its structure, and infants’ and young children’s cognitive development depends on adequate nutrition. As always, if you have any questions, please reach out to our team.
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Willowdale Children's Academy is a child care agency located in Chester County, PA, specialized in early learning with schools in Chadds Ford, Kennett Square, Avondale, and West Chester, PA. We offer programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, after school care, and summer camps.