How to Start Healthy Eating Habits for the Little Ones
Japanese children love fish, veggies, and tofu. Indian children adore spicy lentils, okra, and pickled mango. Brazilian kiddos dive into stewed rice and beans with meat and veggies. So why do so many American children insist on a “white diet” of pasta, fries, and chicken nuggets?
They learn their habits from us. Even before birth, parents have a major impact on their children’s food preferences.
Mom and Dad’s healthy eating is the fundamental contributor to our children’s healthy eating. But if you lived on drive-thru during your pregnancy (as I did during my first), there’s still hope for boosting the nutritional habits of the whole family. Our children naturally try, and even love, healthy, new foods when it’s an expected part of family life. Will they still ask for mac and cheese? Sure. Is it still OK to give them their faves once in a while? Of course. Might they skip an occasional meal while they test your resolve in serving healthier fare? Perhaps. But this is a test worth passing.
- Start slow. Add new foods one at a time. New foods paired with trusty old favorites increases the chances they’ll try – and like – the healthy addition.
- Hunger helps. Try out new foods when your little one is good and hungry. Many “picky eaters” are simply kiddos who snack too often, or are already filled up on milk or juice.
- Just a bite. Make it a mealtime rule that at least a small portion be tried before the rest of the more familiar meal is served. A tiny taste won’t hurt, and will eventually help broaden your little one’s food horizons.
- Kids in the kitchen. Include your child in the food-prep process from start to finish. Make it a family tradition to pick one new recipe per week – with your child’s input. Helping with shopping and prep also makes it more likely your child will enjoy the new recipe.
- Peer pressure. Eating with other children with adventurous palates will inspire your little one to try new menu items. Harness the example of veggie-crunching cousins and friends for healthier eating habits.