Teaching your family good eating habits is challenging but can lay the foundation of a lifetime of good health. Here are a few tips to help make the “healthy-eating journey” fun for the whole family:
1) Make meal preparation a family affair. Even if you only prepare one meal a week together, your children will appreciate the independence they gain from learning to cook. You don’t have to plan any special “cooking classes”. Just work side by side, delegating tasks when they have the skills and demonstrating tasks when they don’t. Teaching cooking techniques is easier and more important than teaching them how to fix specific recipes.
2) Get your children their own cookbooks. Reading recipes, or just looking at the pictures, can get them in the habit of thinking about what they eat. Choosing a specific recipe and shopping for the ingredients can help them learn meal planning and grocery shopping.
This experience can be a great tradeoff between food freedom and food responsibility. You give them more control over what they eat. They give you help shopping and preparing healthy meals.
4) Take a few trips to international and ethnic grocery stores. Let your children pick out some exotic foods and produce to try at home. Be sure to keep your smartphone handy so you can tell a jack fruit from a chayote.
5) Get your children special “family outing” backpacks to take on walks, hikes and day trips. Teach them to pack healthy snacks and lunches to eat when you go somewhere as a family. Give them their own drink bottles for water, juice or tea to take. As an incentive, take the money you would have spent on eating out and give it to them for spending money for the day. They’ll learn money management and nutrition all in one lesson!
6) Don’t be a diet extremist. A few desserts here and there won’t hurt. Fast food isn’t good for you but it’s not toxic. White sugar, white flour and corn syrup aren’t poisonous. By making room for some indulgences, you show the importance of making healthy choices the majority of the time. You also allow your children to feel comfortable eating with people who may not stick to as strict a diet as you do. Food is about comfort and camaraderie as well as body chemistry.