We’ve all heard that to eat healthy you should limit this and add that to your diet. Paleo, clean eating, high protein, low protein, low carb, low fat, sugar free. And on and on and on. With having a new baby, you may notice that you’re a little more conscious of what you’re eating. And when your baby starts eating solid foods, you may really start to focus on what goes in that little body. You may even find that as time goes by, your overall family diet has improved.
The earlier you start to shape your child’s eating habits, the easier it is to eat well as a family. Some parents, though, need help themselves to change the way they eat. If you’re struggling, here are some ideas to get you on the right path:
Always have a family dinner. Have at least one meal each day where everyone sits together. This gets difficult as your children get older and more involved in school and extracurricular activities. Even for working parents this may be a challenge. But it’s one of the easiest ways to reconnect as a family on a daily basis. Family meals help children learn social skills along with healthy eating habits. Research shows that when kids eat a family meal, they are less likely to have behavioral problems and more likely to excel academically.
You’re in control of what you buy. Spend your money on healthy foods, and limit (or avoid spending money on) processed, sugary, high fat foods. Increase the number and variety of fruits and vegetables you eat. Eat across the rainbow – include foods with lots of different colors, which will help you increase the diversity of nutrients you get. Aim for fresh ingredients and limit the number of ready-made processed foods you purchase.
Make a healthy snack list. This is especially helpful as your kids get older, but adults can definitely benefit from this, too. Healthy eating doesn’t mean you need to completely forgo all dessert or treats – but they should be just that … something special you eat only occasionally and in moderation. Snacking can help to keep your blood sugar regular which will keep you feeling better. But come up with a list of healthy choices
Avoid the clean plate rule. Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry, even if there’s food left on the plate. Keep this rule in mind with your children, too – allow them to determine when they’ve had enough, and trust what they say. If they’re hungry soon after a meal, having only healthy snack choices (especially fruits and vegetables) make it easier to feel good about frequent eating.
Plan your menu. Having a set list when you enter the grocery store will help you to avoid impulse purchases while you’re there. As your child gets older, include him in meal planning. Have your child help you shop. Learning to connect meals with food selection teaches a lifelong skill. In fact, planting a garden at home can help your child understand even more about where his food comes from.
Cook together. Even toddlers can help to prep foods. You can teach safe kitchen skills, and make meals together with healthy, fresh ingredients. Just the act of contributing to the preparation makes it more likely you child will at least try the food.
Picky eaters make it much harder. When trying new foods or meals, include at least one food your child likes (this is true for adults, too, if you’re trying to change the way you eat). Don’t give in to making separate meals when your child fusses and refuses food. It’s your job to provide healthy food choices, and it’s your child’s decision whether or not to eat it.
Look at a whole day or a whole week rather than worrying over every meal. You can get caught up in a battle when you’re feeling stressed over every bit you or your child take. If you want to eat healthier overall, take a look at one week at a time. What positive changes did you make, and what do you still want to do differently?
Drink more water. Ditch the juice and soda. No need to make sugary kids’ drink mix. Offer water as the beverage of choice from the very start and your children will grow up not knowing any different.
Start slowly. You don’t need to drastically overhaul the way you and your family eat. Make it a one-week experiment. Or try changing one small thing (adding a vegetable to every meal, for example) for a set amount of time, then reassess. It’s a myth that it takes 21 days of doing something to make it a habit – it can take 2 months, one year, a lifetime to change the way you eat. But for your children, it’s much easier to instill good habits from the start than to break bad habits later.
What changes have you made toward healthy family eating?
Written by Michelle, childbirth instructor, lactation consultant, and mother to 4 busy kids
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.