A nutritious and well-balanced diet is vital in helping your child develop, but peer pressure and TV commercials for junk food can make getting them to eat well an uphill struggle. Throw your own busy schedule into the mix and it’s no wonder so many kids’ diets are built around takeaways, ready meals and processed food.
However, giving your kids the best opportunity to grow into healthy, confident adults is one of the most important jobs you can do as a parent.
Encouraging them to choose healthier options can be difficult, especially if they are a fussy eater, but the food they eat now can influence their dietary habits later in life, so it’s important to instil good eating habits and a healthy relationship with food from an early age.
A balanced diet can have a profound effect on children’s health, helping them to maintain a healthy weight, avoid certain health problems, improve their mental and emotional wellbeing, boost their energy, fuel their minds and stabilise their mood.
Here are 10 ways you can encourage healthy eating in children:
1 // Provide a varied diet
All foods contain nutrients, vitamins and minerals. In order to get all the nutrients kids need, it is important for you to provide a varied diet containing fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
2 // Keep healthy food and snacks at hand
Keep plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts and healthy beverages (water, milk, pure fruit juice) on hand so kids avoid unhealthy snacks like crisps, biscuits and chocolate. Also, a pot of sliced fruit or chopped up vegetables in the fridge will give you something healthy to reach for when your child is hungry.
3 // Lead by example
Try to model healthy eating habits as often as you can. The example you set is the best way to help kids make smart food choices and develop a positive relationship with food.
4 // Try not to use food as a reward
It can be tempting to tell your child they can have some sweets if they eat their vegetables, but all this does is train your child to view healthy vegetables as undesirable. Instead offer rewards like a trip to the park, bike rides or a game of catch as this involves fun physical activity and contributes towards a healthier lifestyle.
5 // Disguise the taste of healthier foods
It’s a dilemma every parent faces at some point – getting kids to eat fruit and veggies – but instead of facing a dinnertime showdown, there are easy ways to sneak them into their diet. For example, switch the dough base of pizza with cauliflower, hide veggies in a tomato pasta sauce, blend fruit into a delicious smoothie, incorporate vegetables into mashed potato, make burgers from scratch and add in vegetables. You get the idea!
6 // Limit portion sizes
Be wise with portion size and avoid serving up on adult-sized plates as this can encourage overeating. Half of your kid’s plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter should be whole grains and another quarter should be lean meat or protein. Don’t insist your child cleans the plate if they are not hungry.
7 // Praise healthy choices
Always let your kids know you are proud of them when they make healthy choices. Praise them when they opt for fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Also, praise them at mealtimes, even if they’ve only managed to eat 1 of the 4 carrots you gave them, it’s still an achievement. Confidence and positive self-image can go a long way in developing healthy eating habits.
8 // Get kids involved
Help kids feel a sense of pride and ownership about healthy eating by getting them involved. Allow them to shop for groceries, grow vegetables in the garden, help with meal prep, mix ingredients and assist with cooking.
9 //Eat as a family in the evening
Sitting down for family meals at night is a great way to bond and make sure your kids eat healthy dinners. Research shows that children who eat with their parents are less likely to be overweight or obese because they eat regular, nutritious home-cooked meals.
10 // Find healthier junk food alternatives
Fast food is typically high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories and low in nutrients. Still, junk food is tempting for kids, so instead of eliminating it entirely, try to cut back on the times your kids eat fast food and, on the times that they do, make the healthiest choices possible. Swap ice cream for yoghurt or smoothies. Swap cookies for crackers. Swap fried chicken for baked or grilled chicken. Swap doughnuts for bagels. Swap crisps for nuts.
I would also highly recommend supplementing your child’s diet with multivitamins. We’ve been using the Haliborange range for around 2 months now and it’s brilliant. They look and taste like real sweets so I’ve had no issues at all in getting Riley and Harry to take them and they both say that the vitamins are juicy, fruity and really tasty. In fact, Haliborange are so confident that children will love the taste of their Softies product, that they’ll give you your money back if they don’t!
Haliborange is the UK’s number one children’s supplement brand and the range features a whole of host of different combinations of essential vitamins and minerals to help support children’s health and wellbeing at every stage – from age one month to their teenage years.
This includes multivitamins, Omega 3, Vitamin C, Calcium & Vitamin D and more.
Vitamin A: helps support normal vision
Vitamin C: helps support the immune system
Vitamin D: essential for the normal growth and development of bones in children
Vitamin B12: contributes to normal energy release.
Visit the Haliborange website to find out more.