I know it can be nerve wracking to see your kid snacking. As a concerned and caring parent you can’t help but think about the future implications it will have on their weight and health. However, snacking can be (and is!) perfectly healthy for kids.
Rather than focusing on what to limit and remove from your child’s diet, focus on what to include. Just like you, your kids will eat for a number of reasons including boredom, marketing influence, sweet cravings, fatigue, and distraction. But the biggest reason they eat is because they are hungry. They are growing at a rapid rate and their bodies need lots of fuel to keep up with their skyrocketing heights, and attitudes.
“Doesn’t like” vegetables
As their bodies are still growing make sure you eat a wide variety of healthy foods. Encourage them to drink a lot of water and eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. If your kid “doesn’t like” vegetables, start by introducing new ones, trying different cooking methods, or sneaking them into dishes (tomato and onion in pasta, greens in smoothies, pureed apple in oatmeal). When trying to encourage water versus sugary drinks, start by diluting the beverage with water, taking your kid shopping for their favorite water bottle with their choice of stickers, and adding pieces of fruit to give the water color and flavor.
No mindless eating
Encourage eating without distraction. Mindless eating is one of the main reasons for overeating. If your kid is begging for the ice cream, compromise by putting it in a serving bowl and eating it with them without the TV blaring. Fight against the typical grab and go lifestyle which is one of the main reasons for weight gain and teach your kid that meal time is necessary and normal.
I am very against limiting or forbidding foods. This creates a sensation of deprivation, leaving your kid still craving the food but feeling guilty for it. In the extreme cases, leading to nutrient deficiencies and eating disorders. Think about it, when you are told what you cannot do, you do the opposite. Help your child build a healthy relationship with food. Having a healthy mindset and enjoying what you do is so important as this helps establish healthy habits for the long run.
Here are some simple tips to make it easier for you to motivate your children to eat better:
Make food fun: Focus on kid friendly, healthy meals. I know children can be picky eaters, that’s why it’s best to focus on simple, tasty, and fun-to-prepare meals.
- Healthy pizza: use whole grain tortilla or english muffins and put in the oven for a few minutes to melt a bit of cheese, your kids favorite vegetables and toppings.
- Taco bar: set up a spread of taco fixins’ and let your family customize their meal.
- Snack plate: simply put things like eggs, cheese, grapes, celery, hummus, etc on a plate and allow your kid to play with their food by eating with their hands.
Healthy homemade snacks: Snack time can be difficult due to the unhealthy, processed snacks out there with clever packaging. Make snack time healthier by making fun treats such as
- Ants on a log: celery with peanut butter spread in the middle and raisins lined on top
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: use whole grain bread and fruit instead of jam
- Make-your-own smoothie: include some protein such as greek yogurt and limit the fruit juices – these can also be made into frozen treats by pouring into popsicle molds and freezing
Encourage your little chef: Making cooking a hands-on activity is a great way to bond and motivate your family to eat healthy. And who knows, you may even inspire your kid to start cooking for the entire family 😉