According to the CDC, as of 2014, 17% of children ages 2-19 are obese. “The prevalence of obesity was 8.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds compared with 17.5% of 6- to 11-year-olds and 20.5% of 12- to 19-year-olds.”
Learn how to start your babies off eating healthy foods from the start. Keysa introduces us to “Baby-Led Weaning” and talks about how it is working for her family and her adorable veggie-eating baby.
Mary gives some tips on how to start getting your family eating healthy if your kids are already older.
Our ten take away tips are below!
- Know your why. Making a commitment to eating healthy in a culture where vegetables are not the norm can be a challenge at times. Keeping in mind why you want to introduce your child to healthy food, and making sure it’s a strong, motivating reason for you can really help in challenging times.
- Offer your baby a variety of foods, especially vegetables, fruit, beans, rice, quinoa, meat. Try cooking them in different ways if your baby or child does not take to the food right away. It may take multiple exposures for your child to become accustomed to the taste and texture of certain foods. Just because they don’t eat it on the first try, don’t give up. Offer it to them multiple times, and try preparing it in different ways.
- Let your baby/toddler experiment with food. At first, baby may just squish the food and move it around on the highchair tray. This is all a part the learning experience when it comes to food. They are testing and experimenting with the food and that is just fine. They will eventually get it to their mouth and decide if they like it or not.
- Let babies and children make their own decisions about what foods they like. Often, we take our child’s dislikes of food personally. Often times as parents we feel that it is our duty or job to get our children to eat. Let go of your connection to their eating preferences. Just like you may not like squash because of the texture, your child may not like bananas (your favorite fruit) for the same reason. It has nothing to do with you.
- Keep healthy food on hand. Kids will eat what’s around, and if they are really hungry, they will eat fruit and veggies for snacks.
- Don’t make a big deal out of new foods, especially veggies. Put the food on their plate, tell them what it is, and answer any questiOn Don’t bribe or r beg. If they ask, explain why the food is healthy and that making good eating choices is important for a healthy body! When I give a new food to my daughter, I tell her what it is and leave it at that. I don’t watch her and wait for a reaction or protest. If she does protest, I ignore her, this doesn’t give her attention for her protests and discourages it. She will either not eat it or she will usually take a taste of it.
- Get toddlers and children to be a part of the planning, shopping, and cooking process. Getting children involved in the planning and cooking process will help children feel like they have a say in what they are eating. When children are involved in the process, they are more likely to eat the food because they helped make it, versus random foods being placed in front of them. When I was teaching 5th grade, we had a garden where we grew bok choy and lettuce. The students were so excited to care for these plants and when harvest time came around, they were excited to make a salad out of the lettuce and eat it! They were willingly eating vegetables because they were such a huge part of the process. They were empowered by growing the food.
- Never use food as a reward. This is an important step to take with kids. We reward everything from good grades to good behavior to birthdays with food of some kind, creating a feeling that eating certain foods is associated with being special or doing well. While eating is certainly a social and family activity and many important events involve food, it is important to break the association with food and a feeling of achievement or happiness. Let family dinner time be the time of bonding over food shared, and let other things replace foods as rewards. Rewards can be a family outing, a bike ride in the park, a new book, the chance to have a friend over, etc. Breaking the cycle of associating food with fun and achievement will help ensure the child does not ever become an emotional eater and give the child a strong, rational, foundation to base dietary choices on.On the other end of the spectrum, don’t sooth your child with food either. Such as when your child is sad, giving them ice cream does not develop a healthy relationship with food. Offer a hug, to go on a bike ride, or reading some books to your child.
- Have family meals. Whether it’s dinner, lunch, or breakfast, it is important to model for your children healthy eating habits, and this includes eating as a family. Turn off all electronics, including phones (at least put them on vibrate and don’t bring them to the table) and tvs. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition and are less likely to get in serious trouble with their weight as teenagers.
- Model Healthy Eating Habit: Parenting experts agree that children pick up behavior based much less on what they are told and much more on what they observe. If they see you routinely eating veggies and enjoying them, they will start to choose it themselves. Likewise, if they see you sitting on the couch watching tv with a bag of potato chips, they are going to want to do the same thing.