How to Build Positive Mealtime Habits in Children

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Children are often known to be picky eaters, which makes planning healthy snacks and meals tricky sometimes. However, with childhood obesity affecting about 12.7 million children and adolescents in the United States, building positive eating habits is more important now than ever before.

There are many ways to help your child develop healthy eating habits.

Here are just a few:

Make Healthy Options Easy

Limit the availability of snacks that don’t have valuable nutrients, such as chips, candy, and fruit-flavored drinks. Instead, keep fruits easily accessible, and acknowledge when your child makes a healthy snack choice. If your child requests an unhealthy food, redirect them by offering a healthier choice.

  • Instead of candy, suggest apples and peanut butter with a few chocolate chips, or strawberries with a bit of Nutella

  • Choose Greek yogurt with honey and fruit instead of the yogurt aimed at children, which tends to be full of sugar

  • Serve water with meals instead of milk

  • Offer 100% whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers

Don’t Use Unhealthy Food as a Reward

Using unhealthy food as a reward for eating a healthy meal can teach children that healthy foods are less appealing. Instead of offering unhealthy food, try to offer to do a fun activity with them instead or a healthy alternative dessert.

Include Vegetables In Every Meal

There are ways to include vegetables into foods that most children will enjoy.

  • Smoothies are a great way to hide spinach, kale, carrots, or beets

  • Shredded onions, peppers, zucchini, or carrots can be mixed in dishes made with ground meat

  • Mix mashed cauliflower in with your potatoes

  • Add pureed carrots or spinach to spaghetti sauce

  • Put some extra frozen vegetables into canned soup

Watch the Portions for Each Meal

Remember that eating healthy isn’t only about the type of foods you eat, but the amount, as well. Many people do not know appropriate portion sizes for each type of food. Understanding and changing to healthier portion sizes may take time for both children and adults to adjust.

Include Children in the Food Prep Process

The best way to avoid “food battles” where children don’t want to eat what you’ve prepared is to include them in the initial process of choosing and preparing the food.

Invite your children to help out in the kitchen when possible and talk about the food you’re making. You can even allow them to make choices for the meal, like if they’d prefer carrots or green beans.

Don’t forget to make it fun!

Building these positive mealtime habits will take time, but the most important thing you can do to shape them is by modeling healthy eating. When the whole family learns to make good food choices together, the result is a lasting lifestyle change that results in happier, healthier families.

At Kids & Company Learning Centers, we strive to help support healthy eating habits in addition to many other positive learning opportunities. Kids & Company offers so much more than the typical Orlando preschool and daycare. Free hot meals, free PM transportation, after school care until 7pm, and we even have the option for Saturday and night care at our Curry Ford location. With two locations in Orlando, there is a convenient location for you and your child. If you have any questions about our programs, including: infant care, childcare, voluntary prekindergarten (VPK), or after school programs, give us a call at (407) 227-1015.

Staff 5/1/2019

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