A lot of what we eat, and other health habits we have are planted in our childhood and what we grew up eating and seeing. When we become parents ourselves, these habits will show up again because we have to determine what our children eat. Our children are exposed to so much information, and this information can impact their relationship with food. On television, we see processed and unhealthy foods constantly advertised and glamorized. If we’re not careful, this can communicate a message to our children that fast food is better than healthy food.
The harm of processed foods is well-documented and we see its impacts in so many people’s lives. Processed foods are bad for our hearts, our gut health and our overall wellness. But at the same time, the same processed foods are often what our kids want to eat, and that can be a hard thing to contend with for parents who want our kids to be healthy. We can teach them to get excited about fruits and vegetables if we take the right steps. Here are a few ways we can teach our kids to love eating food that is good for them.
Show Them the Delicious Versatility of Health Food
If we’re going to introduce healthy food into our children’s diet, we need to show them how delicious it can be. That means we also have to get creative with how we make food for them. Instead of serving vegetables in their plain form, show them all the different and wonderful ways you can use them. Make mac-and-cheese with cauliflower instead of macaroni, or “cauliflower buffalo wings”. Start using fruits, vegetables and other natural ingredients in smoothies, get a list of cacao recipes to get your kids excited about a purer form of chocolate. If you show them all the amazing ways healthy food can be used, it will make them actually want to eat it happily with no complaining.
Nurture the Right Attitude Around Food
If our kids are growing up with the messaging that healthy food is boring and not tasty, it’s going to be hard for them to happily eat it. One of the most important health choices you’ll have to make as a parent is the types of foods you put on the table and how you talk to them about those foods. Many kids grew up hating broccoli because they saw through TV that it wasn’t tasty. As parents, the primary messaging around food should come from us. That way, we can teach them that vegetables are good and do taste good. That will help them stop seeing it as some sort of punishment when you make them eat their greens, and that they are doing something great. We take this even further if we lead by example and show interest in those foods too. If we teach them this, they will grow up with the right foundation and they will carry that well into adulthood.
Tell Them Why You Want Them to Eat Healthy Food
Children always do better when they are given the reason behind an instruction or a rule. Instead of just telling them to eat their greens, it’s a lot more helpful for them to know why. If we teach them about the good that natural foods do, and why processed food is so unhealthy, that gives them the motivation to want to eat the right stuff. If we just give them the instruction without the logic behind it, it makes it easier for them to want to rebel against the rules. If we teach them the value of being healthy, it becomes a lifestyle choice that they also buy into and want to participate in.
Food and health are inextricably linked. What we eat has a huge bearing on how well our bodies function, and if we eat a lot of processed food, we compromise our health. This message is important, especially in a world where there’s just about every tasty processed food imaginable within easy reach. This message is also very important for our children, who need to learn to love fruits and vegetables in a world of candy and sugar-packed cereals. They need to learn not only the importance of eating healthy, but that eating clean doesn’t have to be boring and bland. This is the responsibility we take on as parents. If we teach them to actually love that kind of food, we create a way of thinking that they will always have. While many people only learn about eating healthy in adulthood, if we make it a way of life from the beginning, they will always put health first.