Helping Your Child to Eat Healthily17 Aug 2018
Encouraging healthy eating
One of the most useful things you can do to encourage your child to eat well is to have frequent family meals together - even if it’s not the whole family at home. Weekend breakfasts may be more realistic times of the week to sit down together. Research tells us that eating together contributes to healthier eating habits in children as well as many other benefits including improved family relationships, improved speech, increased understanding of social behaviours and a sense of belonging.
If you’re not already eating together on a regular basis, set the goal of one meal a week and build up from there. Ignore all screens during the meal and encourage your child to help scrape their bowl or plate and clear the table at the end of the meal as part of the ritual. If you have a picky eater, scraping and clearing can also be a step to interacting more with food even if they don’t eat it.
How you model healthy eating is also a major influence on your child’s lifelong eating behaviour. Speaking positively to your children about healthy foods and role modelling balanced eating is the first step in helping kids develop a healthy relationship with food. And remember, actions speak louder than words! Children watch, listen and learn through observation, and then follow what they see. Set your children up for life by being a positive role model and create healthy habits from the start.
Some simple ways to introduce healthy habits are:
- Enjoy all foods in moderation.
- Don’t binge on ’occasional’ or ‘extra’ foods.
- Cook meals at home and try to encourage your children to help you. Involve your kids in the menu planning and shopping, too.
- Discourage eating in front of the TV or computer
- Be mindful and listen to hunger cues. Most children are great at eating to their hunger so let your child stop eating when they don’t want anymore. Kids will eat when they’re hungry regardless of the food on offer, so always have healthy options available.
- Avoid using food as a reward or bribe, or holding back on foods as punishment. Use activities or trips to the park as alternatives.