#EatPrecise: Healthy Eating Habits for Children

by | Oct 11, 2011 | Health Habits, Nutrition Support, Uncategorized

Summary of our last twitter party on Oct. 4

Last Tuesday we had a great twitter party with some of our regular visitors, and we saw some new faces, too. Thank you all for coming and participating in the topical chat. We sure had a blast and exchanged some inspiring tips & ideas. For all who couldn’t make it, here’s a bit of the fun we had and summarized ideas of all important tips and feedback we exchanged.

What’s the best age to start teaching healthy eating habits to our children?

We had some differences into the understanding of this “best age”. Some thought it is when they start taking solid foods; others thought it is before they know it’s happening, as early as they are born; according to some recent studies, children start developing food preferences in the womb depending on mother’s eating habits. So we have a lot more researching and discussing to do before we agree on a certain age and label it as “best” age to start teaching healthy eating habits to our children. One thing’s for sure though – we all understand and appreciate the great importance of leading by example when it comes to healthy eating habits for children!

How to engage our children to make healthy food choices consistently? And how to have them try new foods?

“Leading by example” and “making healthy eating fun” were the leading insights for this question. Some participants emphasized on the importance of limiting the sweets – however, sweets should not be necessarily avoided or limited. It’s enough to make them healthy. Healthy sweets, you say? Yes, when homemade, candy can be healthy because we control the sugar and fat. Here’s a healthy breakfast cookies recipe ;) Others noted as good the habit of a meatless day to explore new vegetables and other protein dishes. And a winner was the tweet about having “a bowl full of fruit on the table that the kids can help themselves to whenever they like”. An interesting idea we had was about the “vegetable Christmas”. Although that person never elaborated what exactly this means during the chat (twitter had some technical difficulties), she was kind enough to share some details about her idea afterwards – read her post on Vegetable Christmas ;)

The best way to introduce new foods to our children is to engage them in their own nutrition choices and make it fun.

Have them help in the kitchen with stirring, mixing and measuring – it is a good way to show what goes into meals. Create a culture in the home that is all about fruits & veggies, download product coloring sheets, shape play dough, and more. Sing songs, play with colors – eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies is simple for kids to understand. Let your children help arrange the foods on the plate- fruit platter, veggie picture plates. A great idea and video-recipe for homemade kale chips came from @еatingarainbow – a great way to get in some green. Planting & harvesting a garden with kids is another great idea to teach them to enjoy healthy foods. We can connect kids to growing food at home or by visiting farms and farmer’s markets. Encourage your child to ‘draw’ in the new food presented to her. This is fun & it can encourage him or her to try it! Letting the children pick the new food in grocery store can be as engaging as taking them to the produce aisle and letting them pick what they like from there… Playing games can be engaging as well and help children better understand healthy food and make wiser food choices. We can play restaurants and let the kids define the menu, prepare and serve the food. We can also play an alphabet – pick a letter & the child should find a new healthy food starting with it when we go to the grocery store…

What abut picky eaters and siblings?

It’s not necessary that the picky eaters and siblings go together :) Some hide veggies like zucchini and carrots in food. Others mix things up by serving fruits and veggies in new ways – e.g. use mini cookie cutters to make fun shapes. Someone brought a childhood memory of her mom adding beets to mashed potatoes and calling it “special pink potatoes” – sweet! We’d say that instead of hiding the healthy food, we should let our children help prepare it – this way they will be encouraged to try it rather than resist it. Every time a child interacts with new foods it also helps peak their curiosity about the food. To further engage them, we can give foods fun names – e.g. Broccoli=Brocowaco Power, Banana Funana, Mighty Melon – kids connect to fun and creativity! As for  siblings, we all agreed that they definitely influence each other. Sometimes they are competitive (as with rainbow charts ;) ), other times younger children just follow in the steps of their older siblings. We should also expose our children to other older kids and adults who make eating healthy positive. An important note on picky eaters and siblings was made: parents have to really be educated on how to help a picky eater, so these behaviors don’t affect the siblings. It can take a child many times to try and/or like new foods, so we should try also serving it different ways. The key is to encourage all children to try new foods – find what they like and how they like it.

The emotional side of the question with children and new foods…

Positive interaction with our children and food is the key – it builds good memories associated with healthy foods. As we all saw, someone remembered her mom mixing beets with mashed potatoes and calling it “special pink potatoes” – bet you still love it, right? J Many of the participants shared or liked the idea of being expressive when eating healthy foods, so our children see visually that we really like it. This is a really great insight and very important too. Make the food emotional and lead by example! And if we cannot do that for some reason (e.g. allergic to some foods), we should encourage our children to try new foods and explain to them why you can’t enjoy it with them.

That’s sums it all, I think.

We barely talked about portion control for children. We didn’t even reach to the point where we could discuss the food types that are important for our children, why and in what quantities… But healthy eating habits is an endless topic – I just hope we helped all of the participants a little bit in better educating our children on how to make wiser food choices and adopt healthy eating habits from early age.

Thank you all and see you 1st Tuesday of next month ;)