Our habits as kids grow with us into adulthood, they affect not only how we live our lives, but our health, our weight, our susceptibility to certain diseases, and even our genetics.
In the evolving science of epi-genetics, it has been proven that our habits, food we eat, and life experiences can turn on and off certain genes, for example, you might have a gene that makes you susceptible to getting type 2 diabetes, but this gene can be turned on and activated with a diet high in white carbs and sugar, and can be turned off with a healthy diet that’s low on processed carbs, allowing that person to live a disease-free life even while carrying this Gene.
What we feed our kids as they grow up can mean a whole lot of difference in their health and Quality of life, it’s worth investing our time and effort to try and set up early healthy habits in their life.
But how can we really start feeding our kids a healthy diet when all they want to eat is sugar and junk food most of the item? Here are 5 tips that you can start implementing with your child today to instill healthy habits early on in life
Start their day off right
We hear over and over that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s true especially for kids going to school and needing a good start to the day. I want you to imagine your child’s blood sugar as a rollercoaster the faster it goes up the faster it goes down, let’s say you child has a bowl of cereal for breakfast or a white bagel with cheese, the sugar and processed carbs from this food will send their blood sugar up in a fast roller coaster allowing them to feel amazing, followed by a rollercoaster fall this is when their blood sugar goes down crashing less that one hour after. What that means for your child is feeling irritable, tired, hungry, and lose focus just shortly after.
Instead try to have your child start the day with a healthy meal composed of complex whole carbs, Protein, fiber, and Healthy fats.
Ideas for healthy breakfasts can be: a bowl of rolled oats sweetened with raw honey and topped with fruits, Eggs on a whole grain toast, or a homemade pancake using almond flour and Bananas
Add fresh vegetables or fruits to each and every meal
Nothing is more important in a healthy diet and giving the body the nutrients and vitamins it needs than fresh fruits and vegetables, I would argue that even if you child eats a majority of highly processed unhealthy foods adding fruit or a vegetable to that can make a tremendous difference to their health. Most kids are picky when it comes to food, but try and figure out even two varieties that they enjoy and include those on a daily basis in each meal, at the end of the day they will have consumed a good amount.
Ideas: pack cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in their lunch box, cut some strawberries with their breakfast, and steam their favorite vegetable for dinner, if they need a snack make sure to squeeze in a few celery sticks or sugar snap peas.
Introducing new food with the three-bite rule
It can feel overwhelming when your child refuses to try new food, and never likes anything different, but taste buds change so much over time and they need to get exposed to the food multiple times for their taste buds to start liking it. So try the “three-bite rule” agree with your child that every time you introduce a new food they have to take three full bites first before passing their verdict, they can then choose not to continue the food but that exposure by time will get them accustomed to the taste of healthy foods. Keep putting new healthy foods every day and as the years pass your child will grow to love and appreciate those new tastes. For almost any new food, especially those with unique flavors, there is a window of waiting before the body learns to accept, so keep trying.
Limit their sugar intake to one day a week
It’s hard to keep our kids off sugar completely in a culture that overridden by-products marketed to kids that are loaded with sugar yet still promoted as healthy, but sugar can be toxic to your child’s health and can increase their susceptibility to metabolic disorders later in life like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and more. It’s essential for you as a parent to draw the line for how much is enough. One good rule is to make one day a week where your child can choose the dessert they want to have. Once a week won’t kill them but will allow them to satisfy that desire and not feel extremely deprived.
Having too much sugar can also affect their ability to enjoy natural whole foods, after cereals, bars, and muffins, an apple or carrot stick won’t have much of a taste for your child, they will carve the intense sugar taste and the intense satisfaction they get after eating high sugar food it will be very hard for them to enjoy simple unprocessed foods.
Involve them in the cooking and food prepping process
Children are much more willing to eat what they have cooked, prepped, or even planted. It will also take away that feeling of being forced to eat a certain food, ask your child to make a meal plan with you, ideas for their lunchbox or snacks and tell them to include their favorite fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, even if they still picked one unhealthy thing to add in there. Include them in cutting up a salad, making a smoothie, or a fruit bowl, the more involved they are in the cooking process the more health-conscious as they grow up. Talk to them as you cook about each ingredient, educate them about how it affects your health, where it came from, was it planted? Raised on a farm? Or man-made in a factory or lab? Help them visualize where their food came from and what is going in their body, you will be amazed at how much their perspective on certain foods can change when they know the source.
I once did a visual demo for an elementary class I was teaching about how chicken nuggets are made, I had leftover pieces of chicken, skin, and fat and I turned it into a nugget in front of their eyes! Blended it fully with some spices, added the breading, and fried it, the children were shocked at how something that looks so good can come out from such junk, but it was an eye-opener for them to always think about what their food is made from, and I can say with utter confidence this class never ordered nuggets ever again.
Be a role model
Kids learn by seeing, not preaching, they see how and what you eat, and it’s stuck in their memory even if they don’t act upon it right now. If you ask them to eat healthy but they see you not taking care of your health it won’t work.
You also want to make sure you role model the fact that healthy eating can be enjoyable and delicious, if you consider the salad bowl the bad guy on the table they will pick that up from you as well. Role models the parent that enjoys healthy eating and makes it a priority in their lives.
If you would like help starting your kids off on healthy habits but not sure where to start, check out my 2-week recipe Ebook for breakfast lunch, and snack for your child.
You can also request online or in-person (if local to Washington state) kids health classes with me, where I will personally coach your child on how to make smarter healthier choices with food.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row]