When you think about a healthy diet, what comes to mind? Three square meals, fruits and veggies? Low carb, no sugar? There is so much information in circulation today that it can be hard to know where to start, let alone how to begin teaching your children about healthy eating. Plus, many dads simply weren’t taught this kind of thinking when they were young. That means preparing healthy, balanced meals for your kids requires some education.
The best way to fight the war on junk food, of course, is to start fostering healthy eating habits from day one, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. Maybe it’s only recently you’ve come around to healthier eating yourself. If that’s the case, it can be hard to course correct your child’s relationship with food. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
The best way to start transitioning your child into a healthier way of eating is to start replacing their fatty, salty, sugary snacks with a healthier option. While there are a plethora of resources available to help you plan healthy, easy to cook meals for picky eaters, it can be harder to find healthy snack options. With 91% of Americans snacking multiple times per day, according to a study by the Hartman Group, snacking has become an important part of how our culture interacts with food.
That means the sooner we can teach children to make healthy snacking choices, the better off they will be.
How to Encourage Healthy Snacking
When choosing your healthy snacks, it’s important to not only consider the fat and sodium content, but also your child’s dietary preferences. Do everything in your power to avoid treating healthy snacks like a chore or obligation.
The most important thing is to always keep healthy snacks stockpiled in your home. Low-sodium cheese, fruit cups, carrots, and yogurt are all great options. If your child is craving certain treats, look for healthier, homemade replacements: instead of fatty potato chips, try making some homemade kale chips or edamame. Likewise, you can replace candy bars with healthy snack bars packed with vitamins, healthy calories, and nutrients.
If your kids still aren’t taking to baby carrots and other healthy snacks, try turning snack time into playtime. Fire up the grill and serve up some tasty grilled pineapple, lean kebobs, or other healthy, grill-able snacks.
When to Snack
Snacks can be very beneficial for children, whose constant growth requires an endless amount of fuel. Young children (or older ones in the middle of a growth spurt) should be encouraged to have two snacks a day, while children not experiencing such rapid growth should be fine with only one.
In order for your child to get the most out of their snacking, you should make sure that you are offering snacks at the halfway point between meals, otherwise you might spoil your child’s appetite, or worse, encourage them to refuse food at meal time so they can save room for a tasty snack a half hour later.
This also helps to instill a regimented approach to eating. While one should never refuse a hungry child food, it is important that food does not become a cure for boredom or emotional distress. That’s a sure way to create an unhealthy relationship with food. If you doubt your child’s hunger, have a conversation with them. This teachable moment can save them years of bad eating habits and even food addiction.
While it can sometimes be hard, especially when dealing with a picky eater or supertaster, teaching your child healthy snacking habits is a huge step towards instilling a healthy relationship with food. In a society struggling with obesity, junk food, and eating disorders, a healthy relationship with food will help lead your kids to a happier, healthier life.
Carli Smith is the Marketing Communications Coordinator and a writer for Nature’s Bakery. She is a yoga enthusiast and loves nothing more than weekend getaways, Disney movies, ocean views and country concerts.