A child’s relationship with food starts young and while it may be the parents and caregivers who make the choice of what will be served for meals, it is usually the child who decides what will be eaten! If we teach kids about nutrition and why we make some of the food choices we do, they may be more willing to try new things, to eat healthy food before the ice cream, and develop a life long relationship with real food.
How many times have you been on the kitchen floor picking up the latest casualty in what you thought would be dinner only to have it go flying in toddler protest? We have all been there and in many ways, feeding kids can be a game of hide and seek or hit and miss.
6 Tips to Teach Kids About Nutrition
As soon as your baby starts on solids talk to them about what they are eating, naming the carrots, the avocado, and the beans so they learn to identify taste and texture with the food they are eating. Provide a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and meats and talk about all the different types of food while doing your grocery shopping with the kids in tow.
Keep it Real
As often as possible serve real food, especially as they get older, even if you are in a hurry. Find meals you make in a flash that are still healthy and avoid fast foods. Serve sliced fruit instead of fruit cups in syrup, cheese cubes instead of wrapped cheese slices, plain yogurt with berries instead of tubes of artificial flavours.
If they grow up knowing the difference between a processed cheese slice and a cube of cheddar. The ingredients and manufacturing process that went into making each. They will be more prepared to make educated decisions and will hopefully choose the less processed food.
Treats Are O.K.
When my kids ask for cookies, chocolates or ice cream I don’t react like it is the forbidden food. I try to never say No, but will instead say “Sure, after you eat your dinner” or “of course, after we have lunch.” As the kids get older, I explain in more detail why filling up on cake and chips before dinner is not a good idea, and what healthy snack choices are ok before dinner such as almonds, grapes, cheese cube, sliced fruit or veggies and a dip.
Teach Food Groups
You don’t have to go into the entire Health Canada Food Guide Pyramid and serving sizes. A simple fun exercise of cutting out different foods from a grocery store flyer can go a long way to helping kids understand that eating a variety of foods is key. At meal time discuss what is a protein, a grain, dairy, fruit or vegetable and have the kids determined if it’s a balanced meal.
It may not always be convenient to eat together as a family but it is usually possible. On nights when one of my kids is super busy we all sit down and have dinner at 4pm: if after school is crunch time, I take healthy snacks in the car and we sit down together later at night for a meal. Sometimes we even eat tuna melts and carrot sticks in the dance studio parking lot and call it dinner in the van. . . but we are still eating as a family!