Are your children making a mockery of broccoli? Having muscle bouts over brussel sprouts? If you want to avoid a battle every time you sit down for a meal with your child then you need to start teaching them healthy eating habits early in life.
It’s a lot easier to promote good habits than it is to try and change bad ones, so start as early as possible and be consistent. Instilling healthy eating habits in your children is important not just for their overall development and well-being, but a child who has good eating habits will grow up generally healthier and be able to avoid some of the common illnesses that affect so many Australian children today.
Recent research done by Better Health Channel Victoria reveals that 1 in 4 Australian children are overweight or obese, and although this figure alone is quite alarming, the long term effects of obesity are seriously concerning.
Issues like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, and long term heart problems are all directly linked to obesity, and although the latter issues are usually found exclusively in adults, the number of children being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes is growing at an alarming rate. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some ideas to help make mealtime as fun as it is healthy.
What child doesn’t secretly want to play with their food? – so give them the opportunity to play and you’ll have their undivided attention. Getting children involved in the creative process of making the meal not only provides them with knowledge of what they are eating and where their food comes from, it’s also a great bonding experience for parent and child. The only prerequisite for this recipe is fun – so expect some mess and enjoy it.
Ironically, making your children set the table and checking everything is ready for the family meal is a fantastic way to encourage healthy eating in your children. There may not be an opportunity during this process for them to learn about food preparation and why the 5 food groups are important, but it will help to engage them by including them in the full dining preparation process.
This is beginning to look more like a list of punishments than a guide to instilling healthy eating habits in your children but bear with me here because there is method in this author’s madness. Apart from healthy eating, the number one cause for sickness and obesity in children is lack of exercise. Getting your kids to put down their iPad may be the hardest part of the challenge, but chances are that once they are outside they’ll forget all about ‘levelling up’. A pre-dinner play outside or a run will also help to bring peace at dinner time because it’s hard to do battle when you’re exhausted and hungry.
The underlying theme for all the tips we’ve listed, apart from helping to instill healthy habits in your children, is how to make healthy eating fun. Healthy habits start at home and with you as the parent – make it fun and wholesome and as they get older they’ll remember with fondness the times you shared a pre-dinner play and prepared meals together. Not til they are older will they appreciate the lessons you taught them without them even realising it. In fact they may even give brussel sprouts a chance.