Today I am continuing with tips to raise healthy eaters. One thing I've noticed about young children is that they like things simple. They usually aren't wild about casseroles where everything is mixed together in an unrecognizable goop. Some children even get upset if one thing on their plate touches another. Don't fight these battles as they will go away with time. Instead, try to have something at each meal that is plain and that you know your children like. That way, there is at least one thing safe and familiar to the child and meal time will be less stressful.
What do you do with older children? If you are going to change the way the family eats and you have children who are around 7 or older, you will meet with resistence. Call a family meeting and discuss your plan. Explain to your children the health consequences of a poor diet in simple terms and get them involved. Don't make drastic changes but try one thing at a time such as having more fresh fruit available or getting rid of chips. Make sure to praise your children for making healthy choices and set a good example yourself.
What if your child expresses a desire for a different diet, such as becoming a vegetarian? Many children today are becoming vegetarians for various reasons. Don't discourage your child but talk with them about their concerns. Find a book on vegetarian recipes and emphasize to your child that good nutrition is still important for a growing body. Don't let them miss out on vital nutrients such as protein. I have noticed some vegetarians eat too many of the wrong carbs and skip vegetables, fruits and sources of protein such as beans. It is possible to prepare meals that incorporate different dietary needs without driving yourself crazy.
If your child expresses a desire to loose weight, you may want to talk with a nutritionist or the family doctor to find a safe diet for your child. Do not let them try fad or crash diets. They are still developing and missing important nutrients can have lasting harmful effects.
What if you have a rebellious teen on your hands like mine who wants more junk food? I do feel there is room for compromise here. Yes, my son has called me a food nazi but even he will admit that I make desserts at least once a week, and keep the car stocked with junk food since I frequently transport extra children with little notice and allow occasional soft drinks. Sometimes I even put chips in their lunches, gasp! I feel as long as a child eats healthy meals and snacks most of the time and gets enough exercise, treats are perfectly ok. Just make sure your child understands that junk food like chips, cookies, sodas and candy are TREATS, not nutritious snacks. We always have raw carrots, fresh fruit, cheese and yogurt on hand for snacking.
I hope these tips help. Just remember, it takes time to teach your child anything (like brushing their teeth regularly), so don't expect them to prefer brussel sprouts over chocolate right away or ever!