In a world where around every corner we are faced with diet advertisements and messages of what "health" is, it can be hard to navigate healthy eating with your kids. If you're looking for some pretty basic tips on what to feed your kids, here is a great resource. That being said, your child's healthy eating habits go beyond what is on their plate every day. A healthy relationship with food helps guide children into these healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.
Here are some ways that you can assist your child in developing a healthy relationship with food:
First things first, help your child listen to their appetite. Just like there are days that your appetite ebbs and flows, your child's appetite can change from day to day. There are some days that your child will just be a little less hungry and that's okay. And there are days where your child will be ravenous. That's also okay. The important thing is that your child is growing and developing on track, not that they eat exact portions every meal. That being said, if you feel that your child is still over- or undereating, feel free to try some of the tips offered here.
It is also important to prioritize family meal times. I know that life gets hectic, but if you can at least find a few times a week to sit down as a family to eat, it can make an incredible difference in your child's relationship with food. A 2017 study found that frequent family meals resulted in healthier eating habits and a significantly lower rate of eating disorders later in life. These family meals create a fun and positive atmosphere around food as well as allow you to model healthy eating habits to your kids.
Lastly, avoid using food as a reward or a punishment. At one time or another, every parent has rewarded their kids with treats when they do something good, but surprisingly the long-term effects of this can be detrimental. Your kids will start to think that since they only get a certain type of food when they are good (such as dessert), then that food is inherently better than the veggies that they ate at dinner. Try instead to offer other, non-food related rewards to your kids such as going to the zoo, playing their favorite game or listening to their favorite song.
Learning how to best support your child to live a healthy lifestyle can be difficult, but you got this! If you have any questions or concerns along the way, any parent support specialist at Help Me Grow Utah would be happy to help!