Teaching your children healthy lifestyle habits is an important and powerful way you can have a long-lasting positive impact on them. A key element of this is finding ways to empower your kids to make the right choices for themselves. Use each experience as a learning opportunity to show them how to tune into their bodies and notice the foods and eating styles that make them feel powerful, strong, and energetic. Then have them find the ones that make them feel tired, sluggish, and unwell. Here are some of our favorite ways to empower kids.
For example, plan a fruit-tasting party, a veggie-tasting party, a nut-tasting party, or even a chocolate-tasting party! This way, kids can get exposed to a wide variety of foods and start to form their own culinary opinions. You can make a chart and have the kids vote on their favorites in each category! Have their friends take home their results to share with their parents, who will probably appreciate the insights into their kid’s palate!
This takes the pressure of assembly off of you, and everyone in the family gets a plate customized exactly to their own tastes. Healthy build-your-own meals include tacos, salads, pizza, quesadillas, omelets, or sandwiches. This is also a good experience for you to let your kid take control and choose what he eats, without feeling pressured to take certain ingredients or eat more of something he doesn’t like.
Similar to build-your-own meals, family style involves placing the meal in the center of the table or on the counter such as an entree with a couple of sides. Then each family member makes his or her own plate. This cuts back on food waste and dinnertime battles since everyone picks exactly what and how much they’ll eat. As long as you’re providing healthy options, you’re doing your part of the job. Allow your kids to learn to take control of the rest!
Help your kids learn organization skills by giving them the recipes you’ll be cooking and letting them write the grocery list. Have them add an item or two of their choosing, like a fruit or vegetable they love or a favorite snack. When you get to the store, ask your kids to select things from the list and put them in the cart. This is the perfect time to teach your kids how to select ripe fruit or fresh vegetables, show them how to compare prices and demonstrate how to read food labels. Try to focus on one learning point per trip to not overwhelm them!
Kids thrive on structure, so help them out by setting consistent snack times – typically one snack between breakfast and lunch and another between lunch and dinner. Serve snacks while seated at the kitchen table or counter and try to encourage eating without the distraction of TVs, tablets, phones, or other electronics. Let your child eat as much as they want during snack time, but don’t let them eat at any other time between meals. This ensures that the kids don’t fill up on snacks too close to mealtimes. Keep healthy options available, but let kids choose what they want for a snack each day. By setting structure, you’ll see their mealtime behavior drastically improve!
It’s common for kids to dislike new foods the first few times they try them. However, repeated exposure increases the chances that kids will learn to like these new foods, or at least accept them. If you try something new, like a spinach salad, and it’s not a hit, don’t give up. Next time try serving spinach sautéed or creamed. Experimenting with different preparation methods can help you find a delicious way to serve new foods that your kids will learn to love.
Remember, the overall goal is not perfection, but rather learning and growth. Relax, and let your kids experiment and learn the power of healthy eating for themselves. Lastly, keep in mind that being a role model is one of the most powerful ways to influence your kids! Your actions often speak louder than your words. If you want your child to develop healthy habits, make sure your habits reflect that.
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