Developing Healthy Eating Habits in Children
From my experience, once you start to introduce babies to solids, expose them to as much variety and different flavours of fruits and veggies as possible. After River turned one I never shied away from herbs and spices, either. I don’t believe in making a separate meal for kids. So whatever he is eating has to appeal to Chad and me. Which brings me to my next point, lead by example ¹ I give him foods that appeal to me. Most of the time he will want to try what I am eating, so we share meals together. It encourages him to eat. Even as a baby I would get excited about his meals and make it fun for him. You can’t turn up your nose at the baby food and expect them to want to eat it. Children notice everything and will mimic their parents' behaviours.¹
Watch how you define the word treat. I use treat to describe a banana or orange. We do have a sweet tooth and love chocolate. So I make healthier options that I feel good about him eating. Sometimes, River refers to food as being treats that you or I wouldn’t. Like the filling in breakfast burrito I make, he thought the beans were chocolate and I didn’t correct him, I figure whatever works go with it.
Keep the junk out of the house. The cookie meltdowns that happen at grandma’s house don’t happen at home cause he knows we don’t keep them in the house. Out of sight out of mind. Having the junk food as a part of your child’s regular diet has serious health risks such as obesity², diabetes³, cardiovascular disease⁴, cancer⁴ and hyperactivy⁵ and using processed foods high in saturated fats, sodium, and refined sugars as a reward aren’t doing them any favors.
If River eats refined sugars and processed treats I find his taste buds change. He develops a craving for the processed foods and won’t eat the healthy foods. Every time we go visit family once we return home there is a cleansing process we go through to get his eating back on track.
Be consistent, keep trying new things and don’t give up. It can take 10-15 times before a child will accept a new food.⁶ Right now, I am trying to introduce more raw veggies into River’s diet. I keep exposing him to them. Things change daily - what is a hit today might not be tomorrow. I don’t force feed him. I keep it fun. I want him to enjoy mealtime not dread it. Most kids will eat when they are hungry and let you know when they have had enough. Let them play with the food. I know this can be hard as a parent. You want to minimize the amount of mess you will have to clean up but let them have a little play. Their curiosity might help them warm up to what you have presented to them.
I often find the timing to be key. I try to introduce a new food when River is starting to get hungry but not too hungry or tired. After he wakes up from a nap tends to be a good time.
I sometimes make shapes out of River’s food. He loves it!¹ There was a study that found giving healthy foods a funny name and putting stickers of cartoon references on them will help increase their fruit and veggie consumption.⁷
¹ Greger, M. (2013). Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at Home. NutritionFacts.org. Retrieved from: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/tricks-to-get-kids-to-eat-healthier-at-home/
² Greger, M. (2014). Collaboration with the New Vectors of Disease. NutritionFacts.org. Retrieved from:https://nutritionfacts.org/video/collaboration-with-the-new-vectors-of-disease/
³ Barnard, N. (2012). Diabetes Dilemma: Unlocking the Solution for 100 Million Americans. Physicians Committee for Responsible Health. Retrieved from: http://www.pcrm.org/nbBlog/index.php/diabetes-dilemma-unlocking-the-solution-for-100-million-americans
⁴ Barnard, N. (2015). Doctors Helping teachers School Kids on Healthy Eating. Physicians Committee for Responsible Health. Retrieved from: http://www.pcrm.org/nbBlog/index.php/doctors-helping-teachers-school-kids-on-healthy-eating
⁵ Greger, M. (2013). Artificial Food Colors and ADHD. NutritionFacts.org.Retrieved from: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/artificial-food-colors-and-adhd/
⁶ Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. HealthyChildren.org Retrieved from: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/growing-healthy/Pages/toddler-food-and-feeding.aspx#seeAll_8_15
⁷ Greger, M. (2013). Tricks to Get Kids to Eat Healthier at School. NutritionFacts.org Retrieved from: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/tricks-to-get-kids-to-eat-healthier-at-school/