Fixing Your Family’s Food Fight: How To Establish Healthy Food Habits
We all know that having healthy food habits is one of the best ways to prevent illness and disease, live longer, and overall feel better in our day-to-day lives. Take a moment to reflect on what you have eaten in the last three days. Did you eat the recommended four servings of whole fruits and vegetables each day? How much sugar did you digest? And the even bigger question: what food did your children eat over the last three days?
Consider these statistics from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
- Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of total daily calories for 2–18 year olds and half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.
- Obesity-related illness, including chronic disease, disability, and death, is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.
Having healthy and happy children is a priority for all parents. But when it comes to healthy food habits at the dinner table, it can feel like a battle to get your children to eat anything healthy. Over time, it becomes easier to just say yes to the easy-to-prepare, unhealthy food choices. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Whether your children are little or school age, consider these tips for creating healthy food habits for your family:
Start healthy food habits during the weaning process. If you have a baby that hasn’t yet weaned or is in the process of weaning, you are in the sweet spot of being able to mold good habits from the very beginning. Children who are offered healthy options during this time are less likely to be picky when they reach school age (although every child goes through picky phases). Don’t introduce processed foods to your baby – they don’t need them for nutrition but quickly become the favorite foods at this age.
If your children are older, don’t be discouraged! There are steps you can take to re-introduce healthy food habits and establish better food choices at any age. You’ll find ideas and encouragement below. Keep reading!
Cook with your kids. Bringing your kids, from toddlers to school age, into the kitchen is one of the best ways to establish healthy food habits. When they have a hand in preparing the meal, they are much more likely to eat it – or at least try a few bites. They’ll be proud of their work and will have fun spending the extra time with you. Cooking also has many educational benefits, such as learning to follow directions, using math when measuring ingredients, and learning the science behind heat can transform the properties of different substances.
Limit processed foods. This one may be the hardest to implement, but it will make a huge difference for your families health. Instead of granola bars, chips, or your families go-to snack cake, stock your fridge and pantry with seeds and nuts, popcorn, whole fruits and veggies with hummus, boiled eggs, and edamame. If your family has a habit of snacking on processed foods, gradually lower the amount you purchase, with the eventual goal of not having it in the house at all. There are lots of options for healthy snacks to choose from that are both delicious and fun. Here is a list of 28 snacks your kids will love from Healthline.
Make water the go to drink. Reserve juice, soda, and other drinks for special occasions. They are high in sugar and calories. If you already have a habit of serving these beverages often, slowly make the transition by watering down juice, or limiting the number of sodas available during a meal. You can gradually increase the water to juice ratio so that eventually flavored water will taste great. Adding sliced lemon, cucumber, or strawberry to water is a great way to make water not so boring for both adults and kids.
You can implement healthy food habits at any age. It takes patience and perseverance, but the benefits are well worth the effort and time. Take baby steps towards the goals you want to achieve this year and you’ll be surprised at how far you’ve come this time next year!