Making healthy food and lifestyle choices isn’t always easy for the whole family. While children actually tend to handle change better than adults, it can still be tricky to figure out how to get kids to eat healthy and make “natural” choices now and then. The key to success is all about how you approach these changes. Here are a few simple moves you can make to help develop healthy habits for kids.
Your most important step is to embody healthy habits yourself. It can be easy to argue your kids should eat more vegetables and get more rest, but if they see you staying up too late and skipping breakfast, they’ll be less inclined to adopt healthier behaviors themselves.
Make an effort to model the choices you’d like to see your kids embrace. My daughter has always been a picky eater and won’t eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I also realized recently my own fresh fruit and vegetable intake was pretty minimal (with a new baby and many sleepless nights, it’s easier to reach for a granola bar than slice up a grapefruit in the morning). I’ve since made an effort to include more fresh foods in my diet, and I always offer some to my daughter. It doesn’t entice her every time, but that’s OK. When you do manage to get her to try something new, it’s a huge victory and paves the way to healthier habits for everyone.
Make It Fun
Developing healthy habits for kids shouldn’t feel like a chore or punishment. Minimizing screen time is definitely something I’d like to encourage more with my kids, but simply telling my daughter to get off the iPad isn’t going to make her excited about it. Instead, I try to offer alternative ways she can spend her time that are healthier but just as fun. Whether it’s a game of T-ball in the backyard or signing up for an after-school activity of their choosing, help your kids find ways to get moving that are fun—not just about squeezing in exercise and avoiding the TV.
If you’re thinking about ways to live more naturally, include your kids in the process and consider their interests. For example, buy a cookbook of healthy, clean recipes, but let your kids pick the dish they’d like to try. You can take this step further by having your kids shop for the ingredients and make the meal. Giving kids a more hands-on experience will get them more excited to try new things.
Take Time to Explain
Next time you’re at the grocery store and your little one asks if she can get that box of rainbow-colored cereal, don’t just say no; look at the label together. Show her the ingredients and explain why 20 grams of sugar and food dyes aren’t good for her energy during that after-school activity she picked. Keep the conversation positive and in terms your child can understand. For example, sugar is what creates the cavities you work so hard to brush away every day—wouldn’t it be a waste of the effort they spend at the sink? Giving up favorite treats is not easy for kids. It’s alright to indulge occasion, as long as they understand those treats aren’t very healthy and should only be eaten as a reward for the essentials.
Just Try It
Kids tend to be more adaptable than adults, but they can also be more swayed by the power of marketing. I recently decided to have my daughter switch from her regular toothpaste to an all-natural toothpaste. I knew it would be a challenge to have her forgo the one emblazoned with her favorite cartoon character, so instead of making the swap official, I approached it as a test run. I told her she could just try it and if she didn’t like it, she could pick something else. Follow this lead, and they’ll be more willing to admit they do actually like the variety that’s free of artificial flavoring.
This may not always be the case, of course, and if your trial with a healthy alternative doesn’t work out, you’ll have to find a compromise. The key is to encourage a healthier option without forcing it. That way, he or she is empowered to make choices on their own.
It’s OK to meet in the middle when it comes to developing healthy habits for kids, but remember, children will come around—especially when you approach change as something fun and open for them make their own choices on.
How do you get your kids on board with healthy eating habits? Tell us @TomsofMaine.
Image source: Sher Warkentin
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.