Below are seven healthy eating habits to get you and your family on the same page when it comes to enjoying food, cooking and meal times together.
1) Set a Good Example
Your children begin to mimic your behavior at an early age. Set a good example by eating healthy foods and having a pro-active attitude towards cooking together and communicating at the dinner table.
2) Turn Off the TV
It has been proven that childhood obesity is linked to mindless eating, especially in front of the television. Children are more likely to listen to their bodies and respond to fullness and being satisfied when they are not distracted by the TV.
3) Communicate About Your Day
Take the time to enjoy dinner as a family and communicate with one another about your day. If you do this at an early age, children will grow up believing the dinner table is a safe place to go for advice and to voice their opinions. Food will no longer be the only comfort served. Children who learn to be social while they eat are also less likely to seek comfort in pints of ice cream as adults, they communicate what matters most to them with words, not with food.
4) Explore Your Food
Be sure to tell young children different facts about the food they are eating. Creating a mindful eating experience will encourage your child to make conscious decisions about healthy eating throughout their lives, and it let's them know you are making good decisions that will benefit their health. Encourage your kids to ask questions about their food and even go as far as to question older children about the food they are eating.
5) Give Your Kids Options
Don't dictate the dinner menu. Let your kids voice their opinions on what they enjoy eating and offer them meals they prefer. Everyone has different tastes and acknowledging your child's food preferences early on shows your respect for them and it will encourage them to participate in family meal choices. This way they will think critically about what they eat and have the confidence to voice their opinions and make decisions.
6) Play With Your Food
Exploration is a huge part of life, especially childhood development. Allow your children to come up with their own recipes no matter how strange they may be. Studies have shown that children who are free to develop healthy food recipes and play in the kitchen with their parents often excel at problem-solving skills. They quickly learn what combinations of foods taste good and which don't.
7) Personal Portions
Not everyone has to have the same serving size. If mom or dad or child had a large lunch and isn't hungry enough for a large dinner, respect that decision and offer a smaller serving. This will teach your child not to over eat and to listen to their bodies. Allowing your child to serve themselves to the point of satisfaction without forcing them to have "one more bite" or "finish those peas" before leaving the table will encourage a healthy attitude towards eating and towards food in general.
Family dinners are precious, and we hope that your a your children will find these tips helpful to encourage a balanced approach to meal time.