Any parent will already know just how fussy kids can be when it comes to eating. You can impose all the ground rules you want – no sweets if you don’t eat your veg! – but most of the time, the old disciplinarian approach doesn’t work as well as a lot of people still assume.
There are, in reality, many ways to encourage healthy eating and get youngsters to take up the good habits that’ll stand them in good stead well into their later life. The key to success is helping your child to develop a positive relationship with food, rather than simply instilling discipline into them. This means positively supporting your child as they explore new foods.
It’s important to remember also that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this: what gets one child to eat healthily might not work for another. Nevertheless, there are some general points to bear in mind when trying to entice your child into adopting healthier eating habits. If you’ve ever found yourself fretting how to get kids to eat veggies, here’s what we’d recommend.
The benefits of healthy eating in early childhood
Once your little one’s ready to start weaning, you can begin introducing them to the joys of healthy eating. There are numerous benefits to encouraging healthy eating from early childhood. For example, it can help keep their energy levels well managed and stabilise their moods. Plus, as we’ve already noted, starting healthy eating early helps to inculcate positive habits from a young age. Kids who get accustomed to eating healthily when they’re young are more likely to continue doing so as they grow older.
So, how should you go about introducing your baby to healthy foods? Once they’re weaning (from the age of around six months), you can encourage them to try a range of nutritious solids; these might include, for example, banana, mango, dried fruits, breadsticks, or cooked sticks of broccoli and carrot. Make sure you provide a good variety of healthy food, too: young kids are notoriously fussy eaters, but if you can show them that there’s nothing to be afraid of in trying new foods that are good for them, you’ll be doing them a big favour.
Getting the kids involved
When they’re a little older, you can start to get your children involved in preparing meals. This is a really good way of teaching them to appreciate what they eat – and it can also help to overcome any fussiness, because kids who’ve gone to the trouble of preparing their own food are much more likely to eat it!
But you can get them involved even earlier in the process than the actual preparation of meals. For example, it’s a good idea to actively involve children in food shopping, as well as teaching them how to read and understand food labels. This is all likely to give them a greater appreciation of the food they eat, where it comes from and how it affects them, as well as (again) inculcating good habits for the future.
Keep it positive!
When trying to persuade young children to take up healthy eating, it’s crucial to keep the emphasis on encouragement – so you need to make sure you keep the tone positive. Don’t make it feel like a duty or a chore, because that’s a sure-fire way to lose any young child’s attention. You need them to engage positively if those good habits are to stick, so an encouraging and upbeat approach is the key.
Try not to be overbearing. Don’t pepper your child with demands and requests about what they eat, as this will soon start to become wearying for them. Instead, make sure you take the time out to praise your little one whenever they make healthy eating choices for themselves. If your child chooses fruit, vegetables or low-fat foods over sweet and sugary treats, you should make the effort to recognise it. This should encourage them to continue doing so.
Of course, this is not to suggest that you need to freak out every time your child has a packet of crisps. No child can be expected to eat totally virtuously all the time – so don’t be too worried when yours doesn’t! Also, the more you make a fuss about certain foods, the more tempting they’re likely to be for little ones. Cutting down on sugary snacks is a good thing, but don’t go overboard. It is a good idea, though, to keep a generous supply of healthy snacks to hand.
We hope this gives you some idea of how to go about introducing your children to healthy eating. You’ll soon see that making subtle changes can make a really big difference. Good luck, happy eating, and don’t forget to check out our earlier guide on how to live an uber healthy life!