Children are very impressionable, which can be a good or a bad thing when it comes to their diet. Most parents want their kids to eat a wide range of healthy foods, and the best way to do that is to model the kind of behaviour you want your children to adopt. Children tend to model their parents’ behavior, not their recommendations.
If you’re doubting that kids really listen to their parents about healthy eating, consider a survey of almost 1,500 children conducted by the America on the Move Foundation. It found that 71 % of children get information about how to be healthy from their mothers and 43 % get such information from their fathers.
Should You Forbid Junk Food?
Most kids love junk food. And why wouldn’t they? It tastes good. It comes in fun colors and shapes, and the boxes are covered in their favorite cartoon characters. Plus, they see ads for these “fun” “great-tasting” foods on TV all the time, with kids their own age eating them too. So to your kids, junk food has no downside.
That is, unless you give them one.
It’s helpful to explain to your children why certain foods are not good for them. Show them the difference between natural foods like meats and vegetables, and processed snack foods, and tell them that only the natural foods will help their body to grow stronger.
You must also set a positive example. If you eat junk food, so will your child. If you eat vegetables, and exclaim how delicious and healthy they are, your child will likely want to eat them too.
So to answer the question, should you forbid junk food, it really shouldn’t come down to that. Because the message you want to send is one that encourages your child to naturally want healthy foods. When your children are young, simply don’t bring junk food into your house. And when your children are old enough to get their hands on their own junk food, hopefully they will have learned by your good example to avoid them.
TIPS TO MAKING YOUR KIDS’ DIET HEALTHIER
For those of you who have, perhaps, gotten off on the wrong foot with your kids’ eating habits, it is still possible to improve their diet and perception of healthy food. Here’s how:
- Tell them why the food is good for them. Kids are like little sponges, so tell them what that green leafy thing will do for them.
- Give kids a choice. If your child hates a certain vegetable, don’t force them to eat it. Offer a range of healthy foods, and always offer your child a choice between two healthy snack options. This way, they’ll still feel like they got to decide what to eat.
- Show by example. Smile when you eat healthy foods. Let your kids know how tasty they are, and how great you feel when you eat them.
- Plant a garden. Studies have shown that kids who spend time planting and tending to a garden are more likely to eat vegetables.
- Eat meals together. Families who eat family meals together have healthier diets. Even teenagers have been found to eat more nutrient-dense foods when they eat with their families.
And if your children STILL won’t eat healthily? Well, for you parents who have tried everything you can think of to get your kids to eat right, try out these two pieces of advice:
- Get your kids to eat their veggies first. Start out with the smallest portion you know they CAN eat. Then, keep increasing the amount over the next days-weeks-months until they are eating half their meal as raw veggies/salad.
- Put their favorite foods of the meal at the very end. This makes them have to work through until they get to that food. The ideal is starting your kids on this type of program early and introducing a wide variety of veggies so that they don’t become finicky eaters.
For some healthy and fun lunchbox ideas, click here.