Every parent wants the best for their children—but when it comes to questions of nutrition, it’s easy to get lost in a maze of information. Dietary trends come and go, but is there a set of solid principles you can stick by? Principles that are backed by medical and psychological science?
The answer is yes—and the first principle is to improve your child’s diet by improving your own. When you exhibit a healthy lifestyle, you become a role model instead of just an authority. In terms of specific actions you can take, the following four steps are backed by a considerable amount of research.
1. Stock you home with fresh and healthy foods
Urgent care centers often see children with abdominal pain. Increasingly, this pain can be caused by constipation. When children eat foods that don’t have fiber, their bodies have trouble moving the food through their digestive system. To be at their best, children need the fiber that comes from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. This will help them build a healthy digestive system.
Of course, your child won’t get excited about the fresh fruit or vegetables they’re supposed to eat if you’re munching on a bag of chips. Instead, choose whole, natural foods you can enjoy together. Stock your fridge with tasty fruits and vegetables, and your pantry with healthy snack foods. It will become easier for both of you to make healthy choices.
2. Try something new
You can improve your child’s diet by giving them a variety of healthy foods. Of course, that’s easier said than done—especially when your child doesn’t like new foods. Start by making such foods available, and enjoying them yourself. Give your child something familiar to go along with the new food. Maybe try a new vegetable, but with their favorite dip. Encourage them to try a bite or two, and give them many opportunities to try the new food. Experts say it can take a child more than seven tries before they get a taste for new foods. Keep trying! The goal is to get them to try a little bit. Praise them when they do.
3. Make it together
Your child will get more interested in healthy food when they get to help prepare it. There are many resources to help you cook with your child. Check out some kids cookbooks from the library, and have your child pick one or two to try together. Shop for ingredients together, and let them check things off the list. If you stick to the outside edges of the grocery store you’ll come home with more whole, natural foods to enjoy with your child. Start with things you’re comfortable making. Then you can focus on the quality time spent together, and you will both be excited to try your tasty foods. Teach your child basic kitchen safety principles. Visits to urgent care centers due to kitchen accidents can be avoided when children are taught age appropriate cooking skills.
4. Drink water
Many children are used to having only juice or soda to drink—and so are many parents! Instead of buying juice or soda, buy fun reusable water bottles, or keep a case of water handy in the fridge. Drink to each other’s good health! Increasing the amount of water you drink is good for you. Having your child learn to enjoy a cold glass of water is a great way to improve their diet.
Every parent knows that it’s not as easy as forcing a child to eat healthier foods. It’s about engaging them, involving them, and setting healthier standards for the household in general. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fibers, and healthy proteins will always be the building blocks—but when it comes to improving your child’s diet, working together and discovering new ways to reinforce healthy habits is equally important as the food itself.