Photo Credit: Dan Gold, Unsplash.com

When it comes to dieting, there are so many philosophies on what a healthy diet consists of: gluten free, low carb, sugar free, low fat, vegan, vegetarian, etc.

Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that the more fresh fruit and vegetables and the less processed food and sugar we eat, the better.

With the growing problem of childhood obesity, research has begun to focus on family and social influences on children’s eating patterns. Research has demonstrated that children’s eating patterns are strongly influenced by characteristics of both the physical and social environment.

With regard to the physical environment, children are more likely to eat foods that are available and easily accessible. Social environment, such as parents’ education, time constraints, and ethnicity also influence the types of foods children eat. Mealtime structure’s an important factor related to children’s eating patterns, such as whether families eat together, in front of the TV, or homemade versus take out. Parents play a direct role in children’s eating patterns through their behaviors, attitudes, and feeding styles.

This means that no matter which culture you’re from, homemade food around the dinner table, with many fruits and vegetables and healthy snack options is the best in creating a healthy culture around food for your child, now and in the future.

Remember, you’re not only trying to have your children grow up healthy, you’re also instilling habits of healthy behaviors, so your kids can be healthy adults as well.

At our house we have talked a lot about why I have my kids eat healthy food.

When talking to your child about it, try to use empowering phrases such as:

  • This bread gives you bigger muscles.
  • Remember how tired you got when you last had a doughnut?
  • This carrot gives you super-vision.
  • Fruit is nature’s candy.
  • What happens to a plant when it doesn’t get water?
  • Broccoli’s like little trees.

Motivating with fear will not work. Such as:

  • If you eat this, you’ll get fat.
  • You don’t really need more food do you?
  • Candy’s bad for you.

What you want to instill is really an awareness in your child about how they FEEL after eating different foods. What gives them energy and what steals it. Then, as they’re growing up, you can slowly let go of the control and let them make their own healthy choices. You’ll be amazed by what’ll happen.

When my daughter was little she would get constipated when not drinking enough water. I always told her to drink more water and then it would go away.

One day she called me from the toilet in slight frustration that the glass of water next to her wasn’t working, because she couldn’t poop. That created another teaching opportunity.

It was about white foods. Generally, white foods make you constipated.

White rice, white potatoes, white bread, white tortillas, cheese, milk, etc.

One day, after several years of talking about food benefits and disadvantages, I took my daughter to the food cabinet and fridge and had her label all the foods as:

  • Green is for “healthy”
  • Yellow is for “okay in moderation”
  • Red is for “Not good for you, eat very rarely”

I was fascinated to see that my daughter was able to label every food correctly, with minor exceptions.

Mind you, I didn’t tell my kids to never eat candy or white bread or deep fried chicken, but I have kids that’ll automatically apply,

  • Not eating dairy when congested (it makes more mucous)
  • Not eating sugar when sick (it stresses the immune system), and
  • Drinking water with all meals and in between

When coming home after a birthday weekend full of unhealthy foods, they actually ask for a salad and some fruit because their bodies are craving it.

Children do what you do, so changing your own habits will change theirs. This might be the more difficult part of supporting your child’s healthy habits, since parents tends to go through much more effort to help their children than to help themselves.

A few things you can do now is:

  • Start drinking water instead of other beverages
  • Incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your meals
  • Eat around the dinner table
  • Have your child help you cook
  • Have your children pick their own healthy snack option at the supermarket

Teaching your child to cook’s an extremely important factor in their future health. Even if it means having someone come to your house to teach everyone to cook.

Eating around the dinner table has healthy benefits because eating becomes more mindful. You actually notice how the food tastes and how much you eat. Eating together strengthens the bonds between you and your children.

Photo Credit: Dan Gold, Unsplash.com