Teaching children healthy habits especially when it comes to food, can be for some parents a difficult task. Every day you might plead with your child in efforts to get nutritious food into their bodies with statements like “pleeeeease just try your peas” or “come on just three more bites and you can leave the table”. Teaching healthy habits about food to children may seem to be a failing fight. Like any learning, it’s a journey and takes time, so we need to be patient. After all we don’t expect children to learn to read overnight, so why do we expect them to be confident and able eaters in a flash?
Research shows that food habits track. So what you eat and your relationship with food as a child strongly dictates your choices as an adult. By instilling these small experiences into everyday life can improve your child’s acceptance of foods they usually reject.
Pretend play is a great way to engage your child with healthy foods and a great place to have a conversation about food. Create a pretend fruit and vegetable shop. Create a play kitchen to make salads, sandwiches and cake. The options are limitless as imagination has no boundaries!
Creating a garden
Creating a garden or vegetable patch can be a very rewarding practice for children to experience. They get to watch from the very beginning where the food comes from and be proud of such an achievement. Gardening enhances learning through play and more than likely your child will eat the prize pickings of the patch!
Creating a positive meal time
Invite your child to help set up the table- pick some flowers and make some colourful place mats.
Allow child to help prepare meal and watch how things are made.
Use descriptive language- crunch, yellow, soft- to describe food instead of ‘healthy’ and ‘good for you’.
Role model; Sit and enjoy some fruit and vegetables with your children while they are eating.
More importantly be consistent.
Give child options of the fruit and vegetable available to them and choice of what they like. Consistently keep giving child the opportunity to eat these foods by having the recommended 2 fruit and 5 vegetable a day in every day meals.
Lastly stay strong.
While it may seem like a failing fight, the more you try, role model and engage with your child about these foods in a positive manner will have a lasting impression on your child and their life.