We all want our children to grow up to be healthy and strong, but few parents exercise the discipline necessary when it comes to helping their children make healthy food choices. Bad habits start young, so it’s extremely important for parents to coach their children early on about the importance of healthy choices in terms of their diet. Parents who teach their children at a very early age are guaranteed to have an easier time helping their children as the years progress; on the flip side, parents who wait to tackle the issue will struggle to really instill the value of a healthy diet.
Lead by Example
The first thing you as a parent can do to help your children make healthy food choices is to lead by example. Never assume that your child will ignore what you do in favor of what you say – this is rarely the case. Recognize that your child pays much more attention to what you do than what you say. For that reason, make sure they see you making healthy choices on a regular basis if you expect them to make healthy choices on their own one day.
Give Them Healthy Choices
Perhaps one of the worst things you can do as a parent for your child’s diet is give them too many options. Children are notorious for making poor decisions in terms of diet when they’ve not been guided in the right direction. As a general rule of thumb, you should have an understanding that they’re always going to spring for the unhealthy option until you’ve instilled the healthy food value in them after years and years of practice. Therefore, don’t offer after school snack options that include an apple and peanut butter, an orange, a granola bar or a bowl of ice cream. Give them a variety of healthy choices so they don’t become bored with healthy food, and they still feel like they’re getting what they want.
Teach Them the Why
Far too often parents expect their children to just understand the “why” behind the rules. They forget that they were one children, too, and that understanding doesn’t come overnight. True understanding usually comes with repetitive explanation, example, and practice. Ban the phrase, “because I said so” from the kitchen. The next time your child asks why he can’t have Skittles as his after school snack every day, explain what that might do for his health, and offer a healthy alternative.
When it comes to diet, moderation is really a great thing. Barring allergies or significant reason to completely eliminate an item from your diet, enjoying all foods in moderation is actually quite healthy. Of course, every circumstance is unique, and one family’s moderation may be another family’s excessive. Know the boundaries of you and your children’s health, and allow them to enjoy their favorite foods as a treat under your supervision. Don’t rob them of experiencing their favorite things all in the name of health – greater consequences might follow.
If you can lead by example, present healthy choices, explain the why behind making healthy food choices, and help them to understand the idea of moderation – you’ll be successful in teaching your children how to make healthy food choices for life.