Here are some easy ideas for gradually moving to a more healthy way of living and eating for your family.
Be a role model:
The beat way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Kids will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in the less nutritious stuff, you’ll be sending the right message. Another way to be a good role model is to limit portions and not overeat.
Don’t bribe or reward kids with food:
Avoid using dessert as the prize for eating the meal and don’t use food as a way of showing love.
Get kids involved:
Most kids enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. Talk to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Some might even want to help shop for ingredients and prepare the meal. At the store, teach kids to check out food labels to begin understanding what to look for. School lunches can be another learning lesson for kids. If you can get them thinking about what they eat for lunch, you might be able to help them make positive changes. Brainstorm about what kinds of foods they’d like for lunch or go to the grocery store to shop together for healthy, packable foods.
Eat as a family:
Instead of allowing children to eat on their own in front of the television, make meals a family ritual. Children like the routine and predictability of family meals and they give parents a chance to catch up with their kids. Kids who take part in regular family meals are more likely to eat the healthy home cooked meal served to them. They are also less likely to supplement or substitute meals unhealthy snacks. In addition, family meals offer the chance to introduce your child to new foods and to act as a role model for healthy eating. However, avoid all controversial discussion during meal times and do not use them as a forum to lecture or scold your kids.
Stock up on healthy food:
Kids, especially younger ones, tend to eat what is available at home. Therefore next time you go grocery shopping plan out your list accordingly. Ensure that you include lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and try to serve them in some form at every meal. Stock up on preferably low fat, cheese, raisins, peanut butter and nuts. Get lean meats and other sources of protein like fish, eggs and beans. Choose whole grain breads and cereals to increase fibre in take. Home made whole wheat chappatis are healthier than white bread, so try using those instead of while bread, for wraps etc. limit fast food and junk food, but do not completely ban it from your home. Instead, make it an occasional treat, so that kids don’t feel deprived.
Choose the grilled or baked option:
Try and avoid recipes that involve deep frying food. Bake or grill chicken, fish and meat whenever possible. This eliminates a major portion of the potential fat content of a meal.
Avoid aerated drinks:
Soft drinks add calories to your kid’s diets, while providing absolutely no nutritional value. Therefore, the next time you go grocery shopping, avoid the soft drink displays. Or at least ban aerated drinks at meal times. If your kids are addicted to sweet drinks with their meals, fresh fruit juice, flavored milk or lassi are much healthier options. Ever certain packaged juices, which have actual fruit juice rather than fruit flavoring are a better option than aerated drinks.
Snacking between meals can be a healthy way to add good nutrition and maintain your energy level during the day. The key to this, though is to ensure that candy, potato chips, cookies etc. are banned from entering the house. Instead, buy healthier foods like raisins and dried fruit, cheese, flavored yogurt and fresh fruit and vegetable. Furthermore, you can make healthy snacks at home, like baked fries instead of fried ones, or fruit salad with jell-O.
Ensure that your children eat a proper breakfast before they start their day. However, beware of packaged cereals, many of which contain a high sugar content- in some cases as much as candy bars. While children tend to follow the philosophy the sweeter the better, it is better to slowly switch to less sweet cereals, or provide other breakfast options. French toast, baked or cooked in minimal oil in a non-stick pan is healthy and filling. Oatmeal is a very healthy option, if your children are willing to accept it and it may be sweetened with raisins. A cheese sandwich- preferably on brown bread-is also a healthy start to a day.
Fruit instead of juice:
Packaged fruit juices usually contain little nutritional value. Fresh fruit juices do not contain the fibre that the fruit itself does and lose some of the nutritional benefits of the fruit. Therefore the best way to consume fruits is by eating them whole and fresh. Prepare sliced fruit for snack times, so that it is easier to eat and therefore more appealing to children. Or add fruit slice to Jell-O to tempt kids.
Getting kids to eat healthy, home cooked food is a definite challenge, especially with the array of temping junk food that is available today. However, the rewards of this struggle are many and will be visible in the health of your children, both in the short term and during their adult-hood.