Parenting comes with lots of joy, but it can also be stressful when trying to balance all the ‘should do’s’ in your life. As a practicing Naturopathic Doctor and mom, I know one of my most important responsibilities is to make sure my child is well nourished – both emotionally and physically. I’m often asked how I find time to cook and actually get my children to eat my healthy meals.
Here are my top 10 tips to setting your child up for a lifetime of healthy eating habits:
1. Keep your Pregnancy Diet Clean
Research shows that what we eat while pregnant shapes our child’s food preferences later in life. Epigenetics also proves that what we eat in pregnancy set’s your child’s metabolic roadmap for the rest of their lives. So to keep hormonally balanced and prevent diseases like diabetes and cancer – eat extremely healthy to help the next generation!!
2. Don’t Cook Twice
As long as you’re eating fresh, whole foods, there’s no reason for a child to eat different foods than you. Luckily toddlers often want to eat what you’re eating. By setting a good example, it will encourage them to eat healthy foods too! This includes drinking filtered clean water also.
3. Keep a Set Schedule
With a regular sleeping and eating regimen kids are much less likely to ask for food outside meal or snack times. Sit down at the dinner table together, don’t feed kids separately from the rest of the family.
4. Don’t use Food as a Reward
Giving your child treats for good behavior early in life sets them up for emotional eating habits a an adult. Use verbal praise for a job well done, that’s all they need.
5. Be Creative
Come up with ways to introduce different foods and flavors. If your little one doesn’t like a certain food the first time he tries it, present it another way. My son despised beans the first time I made them. I tried again with a simple chicken chili recipe and now it’s a staple in our house!
6. Focus on Foods in their Most Natural State
Foods are always best for the human condition if it is fresh and in its whole state. Processed Foods and altered foods are always lower on the nutritional food scale. Most people are raised from day one on processed baby formulas and pablems and never get the benefits of healthy live foods. From this point on their taste buds are hijacked by the Fast Food Industry! God’s Garden versus Man’s Lab – what do you think is best?
7. Utilize a Slow Cooker
It’s easy to fall in the trap of reaching for processed food shortcuts if you don’t know what you’re making for a meal in advance. It’s a great tool for making food for the entire family. You can also cook a large batch when you have time, and freeze in small containers for easy meals in busy weeks to come.
8. Be Flexible and Give Choices
If a meal isn’t working out, try giving your child another choice. Toddlers love to show their independence, so give them the opportunity to choose between two healthy options.
9. Skip the Kid’s Menu
Almost every option on the kid’s menu is fried, loaded with butter, or smothered in cheese. So what alternatives do you have? Ask them to make a small version of what you’re ordering. If that doesn’t work, request they grill the protein instead of frying it and add a vegetable. Or just order an extra side and share your meal! By avoiding the kids menu, you will also be skipping the included high sugar drink and dessert!!!
10. Don’t Make Food an Issue
The last thing you want is your child feeling deprived. If he’s at a birthday party or event and there are limited options, it’s not the end of the world. Chances are if your child is eating healthy, they’ll develop an inclination for healthy foods. With any luck once they can make their own decision, they won’t even want the junk food!
Dawn Cormier, HBSc, ND