9 Do’s and Don’ts to Help Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits
Updated: May 14
Do stick to a routine — As much as possible stick to a routine around time and place of meals. So children will know what to expect and this will help regulate their eating patterns and to not over-eat or under-eat.
Do not make a big deal about junk food — If your child tries chips or ice cream at a party, don’t worry about it. Instead, take charge of what comes in your own cupboards. If you make too big of a deal about unhealthy food, it may become more interesting to your child.
Do let your child decide when they are done eating — Move away from the mentality of “you have to finish what is on your plate”. Children will never learn to listen to their own body to know when they are satiated or when they need more nourishment. Instead, they will rely on external cues like, ‘is there still food on my plate? So I must keep eating’.
Do not emotional feed — Do not get into a habit of giving your children food or a treat when they are upset and emotional. This may help calm them down in the moment; however, their learning will be that the way out of negative feelings is in food.
Do not introduce kids menus to them at restaurants — If you study most kids menus, you will notice that the options are very limited and most of them consist of ‘mac and cheese’, ‘grilled cheese’, and perhaps ‘fries and chicken fingers’ and may be a few other items with similar nutritional quality. When eating out, instead of asking children to choose from the kids menu options, have them order an item from the regular menu or just offer them some of your own food (if they are a bit younger and may not need a meal to themselves).
Do keep an open attitude towards foods from different cultures and make food exploration a fun habit. Try different restaurants that offer different cuisines or simply look up a recipe and get the whole family involved in making it.
Do watch your own attitude or behaviour towards food — If you are a picky eater and you make this known to your children, chances are they will watch you and become picky eaters.
Do not guilt them into eating — The old attitude of ‘you better finish your food, other children are starving in the world’ or ‘we didn’t have food growing up’ has been known to be counterproductive. It only instills guilt in children and will again teach kids to not take signals from their own body and instead focus on external expectations which may cause issues around food later on.
Do plan family meal-time — try to at least make one meal of the day, a family meal, where everyone is involved in the set-up, eating, and clean-up of that meals.
Sabrina Golchin is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, writer, university instructor, public speaker, workshop presenter, therapist, and parent coach who lives, works, and plays in Woodbridge, Ontario. She holds a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She is the proud owner of Life in Harmony Counselling Services www.lifeinharmony.ca which provides counselling services to Children, Families, Parents, and Individuals. She provides in person, on the phone, or on Skype counselling sessions.
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