By Michele Robert Poche
Fostering independence in children helps them feel in control, self-reliant and confident. But we wouldn’t teach a child to cross a street by letting him go alone the very first time. We would talk about it beforehand and practice together then let him fly solo.
The same can be said for healthy eating. A child left to his own devices has no idea that an apple will do more for his physical wellbeing than a cookie. That is learned behavior.
Here are just a few ways you can teach it.
Stock your kitchen appropriately. If you have bags of cheese crackers and corn chips next to the celery and carrots, it’s a tough competition. Keep them out of sight for better decision-making.
Plan your meals. Take your child to the store with you to plan a healthy meal. Plan a quality outing with just the two (or more) of you, recipe in hand, to find everything you need for a special meal you can enjoy together.
Involve them in the preparation. It’s slower and messier to let them do the chopping, pouring and mixing, but they will sooner eat their own creations and they’ll insist that the whole family does it with them.
Enlist a buddy. If you’re introducing a new eating style to your household, why not ask another family to join you? Outings at the park, dinners at restaurants and playdates at home will be less stressful if everyone is eating the same thing.
Teach them to read labels. Once her reading skills are solid, tell her about nutrition labels, portion size and number in the package. For example: The 150 calories listed on the label means 450 calories for the whole bag when it contains three servings.
Be realistic. If she’s going to Bella’s birthday party, she’s going to have ice cream and cake. Use it as a teachable moment and explain that we all indulge from time to time. Then we make up for it at the next meal with healthy choices.