People with busy schedules often make poor nutritional choices for the sake of convenience. This tendency is great for fast-food restaurants, but it’s not so good for children whose parents don’t make time for healthy meals. Children tend to repeat their parents’ behavior, so be mindful of the eating habits you model. If burgers and fries is a family staple, your kids are apt to grow up doing likewise, and that can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and worse later in life. Here are a few tips for setting a good example and raising nutrition-smart kids.
Thrown-together, last-minute meals are often not very nutritious (many probably arrive courtesy of the pizza delivery person). Planning ahead is key, so take time on the weekends to prepare healthy meals for the week ahead. Try making a large quantity of something you can have for dinner on multiple days (such as a pot of vegetable stew) and pair it with simple, complementary sides. Or, start by making a couple of dinners that can be heated and served quickly. Planning ahead gives you time to incorporate vegetables, protein, whole grains, and other healthful foods, and it’s a good way to get kids into the healthy eating habit.
The Same Menu for All
Don’t fall into the habit of making separate dishes for the kids every time they complain about having to eat carrots or baked fish. Make a rule that everyone eats dinner together and everyone eats the same dishes during dinner. You can soften the blow by encouraging the kids to make healthy meal requests and help you cook dishes the way they like them. It’s a fun way to get children involved in preparing and learning to like nutritious food.
Stress and anxiety may seem like adult issues, but children face plenty of anxieties, such as academic pressure and the desire to fit in socially. There’s evidence that CBD oil, a derivative of hemp, relieves anxiety in both adults and children. Talk with your child’s doctor or therapist about CBD as a natural anxiety-relieving supplement. If you decide to try it, bear in mind that taking CBD in gummy form is often easier for children than the oil version.
Don’t Be Judgmental
Negative reinforcement is a bad way to get children to do anything, so avoid criticizing what they’re eating. By the same token, don’t talk negatively about foods you don’t like. If kids hear you complaining about broccoli, for example, you’ll have a hard time getting them to try it later on. Emphasize nutritious foods, and prepare them the way your kids like them.
A Little Sweetener
Eating healthy includes reducing the amount of sugar you and your kids ingest by substituting healthy alternatives for cookies, candy, and other goodies. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make healthy foods taste better. How about some brown sugar on those cooked carrots? Also, try adding a few marshmallows the next time you have sweet potatoes at dinner.
Exhibit Healthy Habits and Interests
Cigarette smoking and tobacco chewing are unhealthy habits that kids pick up from watching their parents and other role models. Consider quitting, or at least limiting your use of tobacco and alcohol to outside the home. When it comes to exercise, you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to get your kids interested. Schedule a family bike ride every weekend, or walk the family dog together after dinner. If you love basketball, teach the kids how to shoot a jump shot, or head for the batting cage and show them how to hit a baseball or softball.
The behaviors children see their parents modeling have a profound effect on the health choices they make later in life. Rather than telling them, show the kids why eating healthfully and getting exercise is important. If your schedule is too busy to allow for meal preparation during the week, plan ahead and lay the groundwork for healthy eating before another busy work week begins.
Photo via Pexels