“New Year, New You” seems to be the month of January’s recurring mantra. We are rapidly approaching the start of a new month and many adults globally are still scrambling to keep their New Year’s resolutions. It seems as though people everywhere are on a repetitive quest to eat better, lose weight, exercise more, make more money, and ultimately create a better version of themselves.
Resolution emphasis is typically placed on personal self renewal and most parents do not think their children should be included in any sort of new year transformative process. This is unfortunate since the new year is the ideal time to help children focus on forming good habits and healthy eating should be on the top of every parent’s list. Especially since childhood obesity continues to be a serious problem in the United States for children and adolescents aged 2-19 years old. According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity for this age range was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents.
Teaching children to eat healthy starts with your own commitment to healthier living and the number one tip is to lead by example. Children mirror our own eating habits. As a mom of 3 young little ones, I am a long time warrior against the fight of artificial ingredients in food and highly processed snacks. I feel utterly defeated when these same organically fed children come home from school and have shared that they devoured loads of snacks composed of artificial colors that their classmates have “generously” shared with them. Or have indulged in fruit juice containing red 40 their teacher has given them during a class party. It takes me several hours to simply remove the red drink outline from around their mouths, just think for a second what these chemicals must do to our insides if they easily cause such visible damage to our outsides.
Therefore, raising healthy eaters does not mean your children will never eat any processed food and only eat organic for life. That is not realistic in any country. As parents, we can only try our best and take it one day at a time.
Below are 5 Simple Ways To Raise Healthy Eaters in 2020
1. Remove distractions such as screens and phones during meal times.
- Create a peaceful meal time environment where adults and children can talk together while enjoying what they are eating. Family and food should be the focus.
- Family dinners are the best antidote for strengthening family relationships, child development, and your children’s overall emotional well-being.
- Removing screens will naturally bring your family’s attention to portion control, which is vital in raising healthy families. When we are distracted by screen viewing, we don’t realize how much food we are truly consuming.
2. Fill your house with healthy food options .
- There is no magic formula to raising healthy eaters, nor do you need to be a nutrition expert to do so. Simply buy all natural and organic food that is wholesome and clean. Lean meats, wild fish, whole grains, legumes, organic dairy products, fruit, nuts, etc…
- If your children are accustomed to eating chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner, they are probably not going to jump up with joy when you attempt to serve lentil soup. Small changes create lasting results. Start by replacing chicken nuggets for baked chicken cutlets that you bread yourself.
- Cook dinner 3 to 4 nights each week. Even healthy food takeout options are loaded with hidden additives and, often times, an excessive amount of oil and/or butter.
3. Shop Smarter. If you don’t buy it, they can’t eat it.
- If your child only eats Oreos and fruit roll ups during school snack time, stop buying Oreos and fruit roll ups. Do not fret, they will not go hungry without their favorite snack staples.
- Fill your cabinets with organic protein bars, whole grain crackers, organic popcorn, and whole grain cereal. Stock up on Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, organic mozzarella cheese sticks, sliced organic cheese, carrot sticks, olives, hummus, and cinnamon raisin bread. These will now be your new school and after-school snack staples.
- My children’s current after school go to snack is 2% Greek yogurt with honey. I created a yogurt bar with different fun topping options such as: a variety of organic cereal, sugar-free granola, dried fruit, fresh fruit, dark chocolate chips, coconut chips, and nuts. For those with a dairy allergy, swap with your favorite dairy-free yogurt alternative.
- Most importantly, always read food labels. When you cook for your family, do you add a little bit of soy lecithin and a tablespoon of high fructose corn syrup? If the answer is no, then why are you purchasing food items that are made using these ingredients?
4. Once you have introduced healthier food options, eat those same foods yourself!
- Children always pay much more attention to what we do than what we say. If you don’t eat healthy foods, why should they?
- Shop and cook together when possible or on the weekends.
- Make healthy eating a shared and fun experience. Go to a local farmers market for your vegetables and a local bakery for your bread.
- Healthy eating does not have to be boring. My children and I have a weakness for dessert, therefore we have dessert every single day. What makes this okay is portion control and that the dessert is usually homemade.
5. Do not serve meat everyday.
- Protein is an essential part of our daily diets, but that does not mean we need to obtain it by eating meat everyday. There are many studies that prove eating red meat everyday can be detrimental to our health.
- Serve wild fish! Try breading your favorite white fish with whole wheat breadcrumbs and bake. If your children are still resisting, give them a small side of organic ketchup.
- Introduce “Meatless Mondays” and allow your children to choose the dinner menu options. They will be more open to the idea if they feel that they are apart of the process.
Every family and every child is different. It is vital to speak with your doctor if your child has any health problems — or, if despite your best efforts, your child’s diet is still mostly store bought chicken nuggets and French fries.
Cheers to health in 2020!