Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Healthy Eating Habits For Your Child

It's no secret that one of my many passions in life is improving health and wellness in individuals. Many people don't know that I also have a true desire to be a part in the movement of conquering America's childhood obesity epidemic. I firmly believe one of my purposes in life is to raise awareness of healthy eating habits in young children. In order for me to do this, I think it is my obligation to implement healthy eating habits at home.

My son, Sawyer, eats a lot like I do. He eats 3 decent sized meals a day, and snacks in between his meals. When he eats breakfast with me, he eats oatmeal with fruit and milk almost everyday for breakfast. Sometimes, if he is really hungry, I also make him a scrambled egg. For lunch, I usually give him turkey and cheese roll-ups or leftover chicken or fish from the previous night's dinner. He usually gets a vegetable like spinach, broccoli, or carrots with his meal. For dinner, Sawyer usually eats what Tyler and I eat, just smaller portions. For instance- Tonight's dinner consisted of Salmon, brown rice, and asparagus spears. I had 6 ounces of salmon, 1/2 cup of brown rice, and 7 asparagus spears. Sawyer had 3 ounces of salmon, 1/4 cup of brown rice (I added cheese in his rice), and 2.5 asparagus spears. He ate all of his dinner plus a fruit salad bowl for dessert. For snacks, I usually give Sawyer fruit, nuts, or yogurt. 

A lot of people have asked me how I can get Sawyer to eat healthy foods, because their children won't even consider eating things like broccoli or asparagus. I will tell you the one thing that makes a difference in Sawyer's healthy eating habits and that is Sawyer eats exactly what he sees me eating. I believe in order for your child to eat healthier, you have to eat healthier too. They aren't going to eat brown rice and vegetables if they see you eating a piece of pizza. They aren't going to want to eat fruit or yogurt for dessert if they see you eating ice-cream out of the carton. They aren't going to want to eat chicken or fish if they see you eating a greasy cheeseburger and fries. It just doesn't work that way. Children imitate the behaviors of adults who are around them and are influenced by everything you do, say, and even eat. How can you expect your own child to eat healthy if you don't? If you want to start seeing your child(ren) eat healthier in general, you need to implement healthy eating habits throughout your entire household. If you don't do this, then you will not be effective. The reason I know this is because I've been there. Before I started eating healthy, Tyler and I would split a pizza for dinner, and I would fix Sawyer a healthy meal consisting of chicken, rice, and a vegetable. He rarely touched the food that I had specifically fixed for him because he wanted to eat the pizza I was eating. It would always get to the point where I just wanted him to eat something of substance so I would end up giving him pizza or something else unhealthy just to keep him full. Those eating habits were not benefiting my growing toddler. When I started eating healthier, I gave Sawyer exactly what I would eat. I noticed a huge difference in the way Sawyer ate as well as his overall health. With the exception of ear infections when he was a baby, Sawyer has been sick once in almost 4 years of living. That is pretty amazing in my opinion and I believe it is mainly because of his healthy diet. Sawyer asks for healthy snacks like apples, carrots, dried apricots, dates, and yogurt. He even wants to eat sushi because he sees Tyler and I eating it, so I fix him a cooked version of sushi. If getting your child to eat healthier is important to you, here are my top 5 tips to make it happen. 

1. Take Your Child Grocery Shopping With You 
Trust me, I know that grocery shopping for us moms is considered valuable "me time." However, I think it is a crucial step in getting your child to eat healthier. Have them pick out their favorite fruit and veggie and let them tell you the colors of the fruits and vegetables. If picking out the food is made into a fun experience, then they are more inclined to eat the healthy food. 

2. Get Your Child Involved in The Cooking Process
I know, I know- Obviously you can't let your child grill the chicken or stir the rice over the oven. But have them pick out what vegetable they want for dinner that night and have them do things like setting the table, or getting drink orders from everyone. Also, if you have any dry food like uncooked rice,  you can have them pour it into a sauce pan or a mixing bowl to get them excited about eating it. 

3. Make The Food Look Good
This is kind of obvious, but a 3 year old is not going to want to eat a bland or boring plate of corn, bland chicken, and rice. There is no color on this plate and kids not only want color, but they NEED colorful foods in their diet. So make the meals pretty and colorful and they will be more inclined to eat the food. 

4. Make Treats Special 
If kids are used to eating cookies and ice-cream every single day, then not only is that going to affect their health, but it is also going to make them think that treats are supposed to be the "norm." Your child does not need a dessert every single day after a meal. Cut desserts down to 2-3 days a week to make them "special occasions."Also, instead of keeping ice-cream and cookies in the house, go out to get it. We take Sawyer to get frozen yogurt 2-3 times a week. It's not very expensive (if you don't overdo it) and its a great way to treat Sawyer for his good eating habits that he has developed. It also makes for great family time, which is valued very much in our family due to our busy schedules.

5. Practice What You Preach
I mentioned this piece earlier, and I'll reiterate it again because this is the most important factor in getting your child to eat healthy. Healthy eating behaviors start at home. If you don't eat healthy, you're child is not going to want to eat healthy either. Kids imitate the behaviors of their parents and peers. While your child is still young, it is your job to engrain those healthy eating habits in them now so when they get older they will be able to make healthy decisions on their own.

Like any lifestyle change, this one will not happen over night. This is a process that will need to take time and practice. If you and your partner or spouse are on the same page about getting your family healthy, then you can make it happen. Feel free to refer back to my 5 tips for guidance and don't hesitate to ask someone for help along the way. I want to challenge you to create a positive example for not only your child(ren) in the aspect of healthy eating, but also your peers. You never know who is watching you and it could be something small like eating a healthier meal or snack that could make a difference in the world. 

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