Tips for improving your child’s relationship with food

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Posted on by Zoe Barnes

child choosing healthy food

Children are notorious for being fussy eaters, especially when it comes to healthy eating. With the abundance of fast food specifically marketed towards children, a parent’s job isn’t made any easier.

Improving a child’s relationship with food from an early age will help ensure that they adopt healthy habits as an adult. The following article will list some ways to help improve a child’s relationship with food.

Offer them a variety of food choices

Whilst this can be difficult for larger meals, it is important to let children have more choice when it comes to what they consume. Children do not like to be forced to do things, and they can form negative connotations around food they are compelled to eat. 

Giving children a choice between different healthy foods, rather than railroading them with a specific food, will help combat this issue. Offering a variety will also keep things interesting for them and teach them that enjoying new and different food is part of life.

Involve them in cooking and meal preparation

One of the best ways to improve a child’s relationship with food is to involve them in cooking and meal preparation. Knowing what goes into preparing the meals they enjoy, you can give them a great appreciation of food by exposing them to the sights, sounds, and smells of the cooking process.

A lot of the time young children are fussy about eating foods that seem strange to them, and this is a natural survival instinct. By making them familiar with food in different stages of preparation, they will become more open-minded about what they eat as they grow up.

Many children develop unhealthy habits as adults because they have not grown up learning how to cook. Adults who don’t grow up with kitchen skills tend to find cooking a chore and resort to unhealthy options, like takeaway or microwaveable meals.

It’s a good idea to get your kids involved in the cooking process as early as it is safe for them to do so. There are a variety of ways that children can participate in cooking without needing to handle knives or mess with stovetops; just make sure you are supervising them.When a child is involved in preparing the meal they later get to eat, they will naturally have a greater understanding and appreciation of cooking. Teaching them the benefits of cooking their own meals while they are young is something that they will thank you for as they get older.

Slowly introduce new foods to them

Children can react negatively to new food if it is suddenly introduced to them as a departure from the norm. This experience can make them suspicious of new foods and give them a narrow outlook around what they eat.

It’s smarter to slowly introduce new foods to them by incorporating them into dishes they already like. For example, if your child loves macaroni and cheese, then you can introduce finely diced vegetables to enhance the nutrition of the meal and get them to experience new tastes.

This is particularly effective if you are trying to improve the nutrition of older children who are already set in their ways. A few small healthy changes here and there can snowball over time and make them more open to trying new things in the future.

Try to learn about new balanced dishes that you can cook and introduce to your children in a gradual manner. The more variety you present to your child, the quicker they are going to open up to healthier food experiences.

Replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones

Snacking is the bane of both child and adult diets, and the wide variety of unhealthy snacking options out there can make it very difficult to get away from. Many snacks are packaged with flashy colours and cartoon characters that make them more appealing to children. These snacks are then placed strategically at checkouts, so children see and demand that you buy them when you go shopping.

If you have a child that likes to snack, see what you can do about replacing their snack of choice with something healthier. There are plenty of options for healthier snacks out there that are packaged with children in mind and make ideal additions to their school lunchbox.

Try giving plenty of variety to keep things interesting for them. Keep in mind that children will demand fewer snacks if they have healthier main meals that give them the energy they need throughout the day.

Summing up

There are so many challenges that come with raising children. In most families, a child’s  relationship with food typically takes a backseat to more immediate concerns. However, it’s essential that you nurture a good relationship with food so that your child grows into an adult with a healthy body and mind.

References:
Raising Children Network, Healthy Eating Habits for Kids. Access on 20 October 2020, Updated on 13-12-2018

Kids Health, Healthy eating. Access on 17 October 2020, Updated on June 2018

Interview with Dr Kimberley O’Brien. Principal Child Psychologist, Quirky Kid Clinic on 16 October 2020

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