There's tons of information out there for parents about "good" food and "bad" foods and, frankly, it can be a bit overwhelming! With all the (sometimes conflicting) literature, advertisements for "organic" or "whole" foods, and tons of social media posts about "clean" family lifestyles, what is the modern, busy parent to do? Read on to discover a few simple tips and tricks that will help you to develop healthy eating habits in your child without overthinking!
- Eat the rainbow - One of the simplest rules of thumb that you can teach your toddler is to eat the rainbow. All the natural colors in food represent different types of nutrients and when we have colorful, wholesome meals we are ensuring that our bodies are getting a nice variety of vitamins and minerals. Very young children will enjoy analyzing their plates as they learn to identify their colors. Plus, the younger a child is, the more open-minded they are likely to be about trying red bell peppers, purple yams, and the like! Make eating the rainbow (and we don't mean Skittles) a priority in your house. If you notice that there's a lot of beige and brown food on the plate, cut up a cucumber or dice up some fruit to serve alongside of it. You'll notice your child carry this same balanced eating habit into adulthood!
- Model healthy eating habits - Modeling a habit is the number one way to ensure that your child will adopt it themselves. Let your child see you eating fruits as a snack or delighting over a nice serving of vegetables at dinner. Save the secret ice cream stash for after you put them to bed!
- Encourage family meals - Believe it or not, simply eating dinner together is a great way to encourage healthy eating. Since everyone knows that a full dinner is coming at the same(ish) time each day, it cuts down on mindless snacking. It also provides an opportunity to model healthy eating habits, and your child may be more willing to try new foods if everyone else is eating them too!
- Involve your child in meal preparation - Involve your child in meal preparation, such as letting them help with washing vegetables or stirring ingredients. This can make mealtime more fun and help your child develop an interest in healthy foods.
- Don't label foods as "good" or "bad" - In the same vein, don't use certain foods as a reward or punishment. This can lead your child to develop an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, talk about having a "balanced" diet. When going out for ice cream, you can talk about how having these types of food is fine on occasion, as long as you've been eating your fruits and veggies regularly!
- Be prepared with healthy snacks - Have an arsenal of yummy, easy-to-prepare snacks on hand for whenever hunger strikes. You want your child to enjoy food and feel satisfied! Things like apple slices with peanut butter, yogurt parfaits, fruit kabobs, and even veggie chips are delicious and healthy options.