Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teaching Kids How "Eat Right"

One of my many goals as a parent is to teach my kids how to eat healthy.  I want them to walk out of my house at 18 (or older - who knows!) and know enough about food, grocery shopping and cooking to survive without having to depend on fast food.

There are a few things easy things parents can do to get their kids on the right path towards eating healthy:

Stock the house with healthy foods -
 I try to keep my fridge stocked with a good supply of their favorite fruits and vegetables along with a few new ones for them to try.  I keep sweets and treats out of the house mainly for my sake - I am a recovering sugar addict and to me having treats in the house is like sending an alcoholic home with a 6-pack. 

Be an example!!!
I put three exclamation points behind that one because I think this is the most important tip of all.  Kids learn best from observation and emulation so if you want your kids to eat healthy, you need to eat healthy. 
 Keep treats as treats -
I've owned up to one simple fact - kids love sweets.  And even though Mama is working hard to limit her intake of sweets and breads and ice cream, it doesn't mean that they can't have them occasionally.  So, periodically when we're out, I'll surprise the kids with a treat - maybe a Costco hot dog or a cookie from the grocery store.  The important thing is these are really "treats" and not an everyday occurrence.   That way, their diets and lives don't revolved around them.
Limit their choices -
My two are at that age where they like to have some say in what they eat.  The problem with giving a 4 and a 5 year old carte blanche in the kitchen is that they have too choices with no guidelines.  Instead, I limit their choices in a way so no matter how they choose, it's still healthy.  For example, at lunch time I don't ask them "What do you want for lunch?"  I make that decision for them and ask them, "What fruit do you want with your lunch?"  That way, they're choices are limited and healthy while still giving them a say in what they're eating.
Talk about food -
Now that my son is getting past the "grab an orange off the bottom of the stack and giggle with glee as the rest avelanche to the floor" stage, I don't mind taking them to the grocery store.  We'll walk the aisles, talking about the different foods we see.  My daughter is currently fascinated with animals, so I'm introducing her to the idea that we raise animals to be eaten.  Our discussions in the meat section can get pretty interesting.
Get them involved
My kids love to help me cook.  Sometimes they're super involved, like when we make GF muffins or cookies.  Other times, they just want to stand next to me and watch as I prep for dinner.  Last night, my son watched me cut up onions, garlic, and bokchoy for our veggie side dish.  He asked a trillion questions and wanted to sniff everything....he got a big surprised when I let him sniff the onion!  Thankfully, he was willing to laugh it off and ate the stirfry like a champ.

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