“Your kids eat so well!”
“Your kids eat so healthily!”
“Your kids eat that?!”
…Oh the things I hear
First off, “healthy eating” is relative. To some, healthy eating means low-fat. To others, low-carb. Or vegan, vegetarian, or all-organic. To us, our healthy diet is balance. Balance, whole foods, and frugality rule our kitchen.
The best advice I have received concerning little ones and eating?
1) Your child will not starve themselves. When they are hungry, they WILL eat. Just because they pick at their plate one meal does not mean they won’t gobble up the next. Or maybe a week of eating like a little bird will have them ravishing your dishes the next week. Sometimes children are not hungry. Sometimes they are really hungry! If they won’t eat what you have at home right then, maybe they just aren’t that hungry. When they are hungry, they will eat what you have, so have plenty of yummy and healthy options for them to try.
2) Your child’s tastes will change frequently and that can happen on a dime. My 2-year-old does this with grapes. She will want grapes for a week straight, and then want nothing to do with them for a month (or more). Your child’s favorite might not be their favorite one day, or they might just need a break. That does not mean you have to stop trying to offer it. They may want it someday again. This also goes for foods they refuse once. Try again in a few weeks. They may find out they love it.
3) Don’t feed children food that doesn’t taste good (or force them to eat something you know they don’t like). This is kind of common sense. Would you eat it? If not, why are you feeding it to your child? (In my mind I always think of plain ol’ rice cereal. Yuck.) Now if your child likes a taste that you don’t prefer, that is one thing. But feeding them something that just looks uneatable is silly. Children want to enjoy their food, too. (And enjoyment just may aid in proper digestion!)
4) Get your child cooking with you. Get them messy if it is possible. Let them take part in the fixing of the meal. There is so much to talk about concerning food with your child, and the more they know the more they will be interested in trying it out.
5) Don’t deny food. Keep healthy food in your home to snack on. If you little ones are hungry at four and want a snack, give them a healthy snack. If their dinner is at five and they don’t eat as much, it is okay because they ate when they were hungry and they still ate good food. In doing so you are teaching them to eat when they are hungry, and to stop when they are full. If the only options they have at home are healthy ones, there is no reason not to let them eat when they are hungry… and little ones are hungry a lot!
6) Sit your child down to eat. Better yet- eat with your child. Show them how to eat and what to eat. (If you don’t eat a balanced diet, how can you expect your child to?) Show them how to properly hold utensils, cut meat, or fold a napkin. Let them see you enjoying food- they will want to try it out as well. As an added bonus, this special time can be used to talk and enjoy one another.
Decide what is healthy eating for your family. Open your child’s eyes to enjoying food and watch them flourish.