Helping children eat a healthful diet can be a challenge. Yet when children develop good health habits they’re more likely to stick with those habits later in life. And that can mean lower risk for many cancers and other chronic diseases when they become adults.
For many families, between all their activities and having limited experience with quick, healthy food prep, sitting down to healthful family meal may seem more like a luxury than routine. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
This past Tuesday, our monthly twitter chat focused on strategies and tips to help kids eat healthfully. Parents and registered dietitians weighed in on how they get their own families to eat healthy meals. Here are some ideas they shared:
1. Try theme meal nights: e.g. Taco Tuesday or Build Your Own Pizza Thursday.
It’s so much easier to prepare dinner if it’s already planned. For Taco Tuesday, all you need are the whole-wheat tortillas, beans, cooked chicken, chopped veggies and salsa. Put everything on the table and let everyone make their own.
2. Have children help with food preparation.
Your kids will be more invested in the meal if they’ve washed or chopped some vegetables, warmed the tortillas or set the table. And the meal may get on the table more quickly.
3. Model healthy eating and physical activity.
Studies say that seeing parents not only eat but also enjoy vegetables is among the best predictors of kids eating veggies. On the flip side, it can also be important to demonstrate how to occasionally eat the “sometime” foods, like cookies or ice cream in small quantities. When these foods are banned or doled out as treats for good behavior, they may become a forbidden fruit and seem more special to the child.
4. Make mealtime a happy time
Steer the conversation toward upbeat and pleasant topics. Leave the serious and potentially contentious discussions for later. It is also good to have a policy for electronic devices. Before smart phones and tablets, the policy at our dinner table was “no reading.”
Read the chat transcript for more great ideas, tips and strategies.
You’ll also find recipes and activities to help your family develop healthy habits at our “Healthy Kids Today – Prevent Cancer Tomorrow” campaign.
These are excellent tips for helping children and parents to improve eating habits. I particularly like the reminder that it is counterproductive to ban foods from a child’s diet. I know from personal experience that that doesn’t work!