Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits with Kids

Ways to Encourage Healthy Eating Habits with Kids

My husband and I have had our share of mealtime struggles when it came to our two little ones. Believe me when I tell you that there is ALWAYS something that we have to problem solve at their mealtime. Whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner…there’s always a challenge. So, here’s some information based on our experiences of what you can do to encourage positive mealtime behaviors, or at least try to. Keep in mind that raising confident, independent, and healthy self-feeders takes time, patience, and energy. You got this!

 

Tip #1: Ambiance Matters!

Set the stage for enjoyable mealtime experiences by creating a calm and inviting atmosphere. Maybe bring out their favorite plates or utensils, give them a 5 to 10 minute reminder that mealtime is soon to come, and when it’s time, excitedly tell them what’s on their plate. As always, minimize distractions such as screens or toys and focus on having conversations with your little one.

 

Tip #2: Be Predictable

Establish a regular mealtime routine with consistent meal and snack times. Babies and toddlers can’t tell time just yet. So, they thrive on predictability. For example, in the morning maybe breakfast might be 15-20 minutes after they wake up. Snack time might be an hour before lunch. Lunch could be after their morning nap, and so on. A schedule also helps to control overeating and unhealthy snacking. Plus, their internal body clock and belly will also learn when mealtime is on the way. From experience, never wait until their stomach is hungry. That just leads to a hangry child or to unhealthy snacking.

 

Tip #3: Try, Try, Again

Introduce a variety of foods to expose your baby to different flavors, textures, and nutrients. Try to introduce new foods one at a time and be patient, calm, and collected if your baby doesn’t accept them immediately. As a full-time working mom, I found it difficult to cook two separate meals- one that my husband and I would eat and one that our little ones would eat. So, instead of that, I’d offer little bites of what we were having to introduce them to our foods. Sometimes they’d happily eat it, but other times, they won’t. I always would have something on the side (usually in the refrigerator) that I know my kids would happily eat if they decided against any food that were on their plate. Getting creative with presentation also helps encourage eating. Maybe shape those noodles into a smiley face or a star before handing them their plate. It definitely can make mealtime something to look forward to.

 

Tip #4: I Do, You Do, We Do!

When your baby sees it from you, they’ll follow! Be a positive role model by showing your little one how you follow healthy eating habits. Enjoy meals together as a family whenever possible and show enthusiasm towards eating and spending the time together doing so. Hold those negative comments about certain foods, but instead turn it into positive statements or questions. For example, I always find myself saying…”Hmm, this tastes pretty sour, I wonder what’s in it? Could there be a lemon in this dish?” If your little one is a picky eater like mine are, I always try to convince them to give things a try before deciding they don’t like it.

 

Tip #5: Let Mess Happen

Babies and toddlers can be extremely messy eaters! This is part of the learning process towards independent self-feeding. I started baby led weaning for my second son at the young age of 8 months. After every mealtime his seat, clothing, table, and floor beneath him was just unbelievably messy with food everywhere. I didn’t embrace the messiness of mealtime, but I did let it happen. I did enjoy the fact that he learned to self-feed, knew how much he wanted to eat, became open to trying different foods, and learned how to use utensils early on. Today, he prefers to feed himself and enjoys eating a variety of different foods. So, it’s worth trying to embrace the messiness of mealtime as your baby explores and experiments with different foods. They might just surprise you with what they’ll choose to eat in the end.

 

 

There you have it! My tips to encourage positive mealtime habits with kids. These are strategies that we have done and are currently using. It does take time and you’ll find that you may have to repeat a process or two every now and then. Try to be patient and persistent throughout the process, to stay positive, and know that you are laying the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating habits. Happy eating!

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