In the US, nearly 1 in 3 kids are overweight or obese.
This is a serious issue, as being overweight or obese can have serious consequences on your health, in both childhood and adulthood. Those with obesity are more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and psychological issues.
Luckily, there are things you can do to make sure your kids eat right and that they stay healthy and strong.
Check out this guide to discover the top tips to help your kids eat right at every meal.
1. Make Food Fun
One of the best ways to ensure your kids eat healthy at every meal is to make food fun. A plate of white chicken and steamed broccoli may be super healthy and appetizing, but this plate isn’t always going to look appealing to children.
Here are some simple things you can do to make food fun for your children:
- Try using familiar foods like spaghetti or pizza to introduce your kids to new, nutritious ingredients. For example, you could make the pasta from zucchini noodles or put hummus and veggies on pizza instead of tomato sauce and cheese
- Make colorful smoothies to ensure that your kids are getting enough fruits and veggies
- Make creations out of your food: For example, you can put a smiley face made out of fruit on top of your kids’ pancakes
The more your kids associate healthy foods with fun, the less likely they’ll be to resist eating them.
2. Get Kids Involved in the Cooking
If you think your kids are too young to get involved in cooking, you’re wrong. Whether it’s helping measure out ingredients or stir a mixture, there are always ways your kids can help you in the kitchen.
If your children become more involved in choosing and preparing their meals, they’ll likely be more interested in eating what they’ve created. Next time you go to the store, take your kids with you and let them pick out the produce. Then, you can build your meal around this, and if your kids are old enough, they can help with the chopping and mixing.
Another great way to get your kids involved in the preparation of their meals is to have “build your own” meal nights. For example, you can create a build your self fajita station, a build yourself salad bar, or build yourself fruit and yogurt parfait for dessert.
3. Don’t Treat Food as a Punishment/Reward
Children should grow up knowing that they should enjoy eating food and that the reason we eat is to nourish our bodies. If you treat food as a punishment or reward, this can send mixed signals to your children.
You should never withhold a meal from your kids when they’ve been misbehaving. And on the same note, you should try to cut back on giving your kids desserts to cheer them up.
4. Plan Dinners
We get it. It can be very hard to meal plan for one person, let alone a whole family. But, the more you can plan out your meals beforehand, the less likely you’ll be to stop for fast food on the way home or order pizza.
If you think planning out dinners for the whole week is too daunting, start by planning out just two or three meals a week. And remember, a good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be balanced. Focus on having a veggie, a lean protein source, and a whole grain at each meal.
Also, just like you can get your kids involved in cooking, so too can you get them involved in meal prepping. In fact, you could even make chopping veggies or some other task as a part of their weekly chores.
5. Dip It
No matter how old you are, meals are always a little more fun when they involve a dipping sauce. Plus, dipping sauces are a great way to get your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. It can also make food moist, making it easier to eat for young children.
And remember, dipping sauces don’t have to be unhealthy choices like ranch or maple syrup. Here are some healthy-ish dipping sauces to add into the rotation:
- Peanut butter
- Tzatziki sauce
- Homemade salad dressings
Also, don’t be afraid to let your kids experiment with the dipping sauces they try. Just try not to be too horrified by the combinations they come up with!
6. Don’t Force It
Many of us grew up with our parents saying to us things like, “eat your vegetables,” or, “you need to clear your plate before you’re excused.”
However, while most parents mean well when they say things, they really aren’t doing any good when it comes to helping their children develop healthy eating choices. If you’re serving healthy, balanced meals to your kids, then you’ve done your job. It’s their responsibility to eat them.
If you try to play the role of enforcer, then your kids will only resist healthy choices more.
7. Snack Smarter
Oftentimes, it’s the snacking that really throws off a healthy diet. To make sure your kids aren’t succumbing to chips and cookies every time they want a snack, make sure you have healthy snacking choices available in your home.
Some healthy, easy snacks include:
- Fruits like bananas, apples, pears, and oranges
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Pretzels and hummus
- Veggies and hummus
- Lightly salted/unsalted popcorn
- Whole-grain crackers with cheese
- Frozen grapes
- Apples and peanut butter
- Celery and peanut butter
The more healthy foods you have lying around, the less likely they’ll be to reach for the junk food.
How to Help Your Kids Eat Right: Wrap Up
Now that you know how to help your kids eat right, it’s time to put these tips into action.
Also, be sure to check back in with our blog for more tips and tricks for leading a healthy lifestyle.