I get questions on how I get my kids to eat healthy. I must say that I am really blessed in that department. They eat all vegan meals that I make and they have an endless appetite for fruits and vegetables. It all started when they were really young. I don't remember cooking separate foods for them, they just ate what my husband and I ate. I would make cultural dishes from my birth country Grenada and they would eat it as well. I realized early on that not classifying foods played an important role in how they perceived foods. I switched over to mostly plant-based and vegan foods a few years ago and they didn't even notice. I just stopped buying meats and stopped preparing it at home. They just ate what I cooked, full of flavor. The only problem I continue to battle with is when their grandparents bring them to places like Mac Donald's... I never take them there ever in my life. I remember when my son was 5 years old and he said to me "mommy look, there is the place with the "M"... he was talking about Mac Donald's hahaha.
Studies show that childhood habits usually stick with individuals for the rest of their lives. Kids who drink sugary drinks or high calorie processed foods develop a taste for those products and continue to eat them for the rest of their lives. Below are 10 tips that are enforceable for healthier children.
1. DON'T CLASSIFY FOODSDon't classify "healthy food" or "vegan food"... it's just food. The common mistake I see and I do it myself is categorizing cookies, cakes, etc as "treats"... Are they really treats? What I have learnt is that you have to recondition how they view food. Position grapes, pineapples, or strawberries as snacks opposed to candy, cookies, etc.
2. LET THEM WATCH YOU
They watch everything I do and encourage them to participate. Don't expect your children to make better choices if we don't as parents. My kids eat fruits and vegetables because I do.
3. TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR PANTRY
I have control over what I purchase so they eat what I buy. If you don't purchase it, then the kids won't eat it so pay close attention to the "food" you are feeding your children. For example, replace cookies for popcorn kernels and pop them at home.
4. WATCH FOOD DOCUMENTARIES
They watch food documentaries with me which allows them to form their own ideas and ask great questions regarding food. It really changes their perception. (Great documentaries like "What The Health", "Cowspiracy", "Food Matters" etc.)
5. READ NUTRITION FACT TABLES AND INGREDIENT LISTS
When they want something like candy and other junk; ask them to read at least 3 ingredients... a discussion starts. If you as a parent cannot pronounce the ingredients on the label, most likely your body isn't able to recognise it or process it either.
6. EDUCATE THEM
Educate them about childhood obesity, diabetes etc. They are so smart they will get it. I explain what empty calories, preservatives, chemicals etc are to them and if I can't explain something, I find a solution online.
8. MAKE THEM FEEL IN CONTROL
I always make them feel like the choices are theirs for example "choose your favourite apples" or "let's come up with your own smoothie or juice ingredients" or "an orange or banana"? Always give them choices with equal contribution to their health. My favourite is do you want cucumbers or broccoli... cucumbers.
9. DON'T FORCE THEM
Don't ever force them or push them, gradually they will learn and will want to do it.
10. NOT PERFECTION; BUT BE CONSISTENT
The change starts with us...the parents... it's difficult but it's possible ?. Aim for consistency not perfection. I am a mom, trust me I know. I know how hard it is when fast food and junk are marketed towards our children but we must take control of their future. The change starts with us, we must want our children to be healthy. Your language must be consistent so that the actions are. I'm not saying by any means that kids cannot have candies or ice cream, I limit them to once in a while.
Being physically active is very important for children. We spend on average two hours a day participating in physical activities. They play sports, we go for long walks and anything that requires movement.
Another great way I help my children is by not having programmed television in the household. They don't cry or throw tantrums for things that I witnessed other kids doing in grocery stores for sugary cereals with their favorite characters on the box. We need to stop being ignorant and start researching and start helping our babies. We don't want them to suffer from childhood obesity, diabetes and more.
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