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It can be hard enough getting yourself to eat healthy. Throw the whole family in the mix and it can feel impossible – but it doesn’t have to be. Think of eating healthy less as a challenge and more of a lifestyle. By shifting your mindset, eating becomes easier to keep healthy.
Many studies have shown that the earlier you start a habit the more likely it will stick into adulthood. This is why it is so vital that you teach your kids to eat healthfully from the start, especially considering our eating habits have a profound effect on our mental health, according to ABC News. What we consume affects how we cope with stress and sadness, anxiety, and depression, as well as our overall happiness.
Keep in mind that what your child should be eating will change as they grow. This means your 8-year-old may have different needs than your 4-year-old. It is a good idea to check with your pediatrician to learn what vitamins and nutrients they need as they get older. With this in mind, you should generally aim to fill half their plate with fruits and veggies, a quarter with grains, and the remaining with lean proteins for every meal.
A picky eater can be a parent’s worst headache. Do not let yourself become a short-order cook; instead, put in the effort to expand their palate. Introduce new foods slowly and be patient. Often, it takes eight to 10 exposures to a new food before they are willing to try it.
Another good way to encourage them to try new foods is to get them involved in the cooking process. Try taking them to the grocery store with you and let them pick what you are eating. This does not mean you give them free reign; instead, give them two to three options to choose from but they will still feel like they have a choice. Or, make them your sous chef in the kitchen. Give them whatever task you are comfortable with, from peeling corn to chopping up vegetables to stirring a pot. The more involved they are, the more likely they will be to eat what you serve.
If your schedule makes it impossible for you to cook a full meal every evening, that is okay. Instead, try planning your meals out in advance. If you take one day a week to prep your meals, later in the week you won’t default to unhealthy take-out or whatever’s quickest. Meal prepping can be your best friend in keeping everyone happy and healthy.
Cooking your own meals at home has so many advantages to staying healthy. You are able to control what’s in your food and your portion size, making it easier to commit to a balanced diet. And as you get better, your skills in the kitchen can surpass what you get when you eat out.
You can do everything right to maintain a healthy diet during main meals, but if you’re constantly snacking on unhealthy foods, all that hard work will be undone. It can be difficult to monitor what your kids are snacking on, especially if they are old enough to get their own snacks.
One of the best ways to combat unhealthy snacking is to simply keep unwanted foods out of the house. Also, remember that children will always follow the path of least resistance, so PBS recommends keeping plenty of healthy snacks easily accessible. Try pre-cutting apple slices and keeping carrots and hummus on hand for them to grab themselves.
Healthy eating should not be viewed as a challenge; it’s a lifestyle for your family. Taking the time to build healthy habits while your kids are young will cause a lifetime of good choices.
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