Ask a Nutritionist: What Nutrition Habits Should I Teach My Kids?

Hi Jess! Being a parent sometimes comes with mealtime rollercoasters. I was wondering if you had any key pointers for instilling healthy eating habits in my little ones?

As a parent, encouraging a positive relationship with food and nutrition can feel like climbing a mountain at times, but it’s a climb worth making. The earlier you start laying the foundation for healthy habits with your children, the better.

Your child will navigate the early stages of developing preferences – cue the ‘I love chocolate but hate broccoli’ phase – but don’t worry, there are ways for you to be a positive role model and set up those healthy habits for life. It’s all about the environment you create.

Here’s my 5 top tips for encouraging positive nutrition habits in kids:

Lead by example

Remember, children are like sponges, soaking up everything in their surroundings. They observe, listen and follow what they see. As the role model, ensure you’re embracing a balanced diet including fruit, vegetables, wholegrains in your meals. These choices will leave a lasting impression on them.

Involve children in cooking

Invite your little ones into the kitchen, give them an apron and nurture a genuine interest in nutrition. They can play a role in meal planning and cooking, providing a sense of ownership, fuelling their curiosity to try new things.

Make fruit and vegetables appealing

Spice up the appeal of fruit and veg, and make them less of a chore and more of a fun experience. Experiment with roasted baby carrots for a snack or get creative with combinations like dipping apple slices into peanut butter.

Expose your child to lots of different foods

Introduce your child to a wide range of foods, keeping their options diverse and adventurous. Keep in mind that it might require a few tries for them to warm up to new flavours. Embracing variety will enrich their plate and offer an open-minded approach to eating.

Prioritise regular meals

Make regular meals a priority by setting specific meal times for your child, and promoting a consistent eating pattern. Whenever possible, create a family-friendly set up, eat at the dinner table, switch off the TV, and add a touch of fun.

What to avoid

Strict rules

Avoid strict rules and bans on specific foods for your kids, this not only creates a negative vibe around food, but can make the forbidden more appealing. Instead, opt for a more relaxed approach, steering clear of using food as a bribe for a more positive approach to eating.

Negative language

Keep away from using negative language about food and weight when chatting with your kids. Shift from saying things like ‘chocolate is bad for you and makes you fat” and try to make mealtimes more fun with positive language that reinforces the habits you want to build.

TL;DR

When shaping healthy nutrition habits for kids, the secret lies in making the experience enjoyable.

There are many tips to use, from setting a good example yourself, to involving them in the kitchen – transforming what used to be a battle into a fun and engaging experience. Remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits- all solution with this, it may take a bit of trial and error to see what works best for you and your family.

Jessica Stansfield, RNutr

Junior Nutrition Manager

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