Childhood obesity has become a major issue recently. We hear about diet and exercise, that we should avoid processed foods, and that children should spend more time playing and less time in front of the TV or computer.
But in today’s fast-paced world, people feel there is no time for a home cooked meal or figuring out how to get their children to eat healthier food. It just seems easier to grab a value meal at the local fast food chain on the way home, or get whatever sweet snacks kids will eat when grocery shopping. The reality is, getting children to start eating healthy food should start with parents making changes.
Most children are natural mimics
They want to act like their parents and other adults. So if you give them an apple or carrot sticks as a treat but then eat some processed candy bar, they will want the bar and claim not to like the healthier snack. The first step will be to limit the amount of processed “junk food” in the house and rarely buy more. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables. Some of the best snacks come straight from the produce section of grocery stores. Oranges, broccoli florets with a little homemade dip, celery sticks, sliced tomatoes, and grapes are just a few of the fast and easy snacks available most of the year in most stores.
They are Hands on
Children tend to be very hands on. You could try growing a small garden. Try taking them to “you pick” farms to help pick fruits like strawberries during the spring and summer. Another idea may be to take them to local farmers’ markets. Here, children can see what produce looks like when allowed to ripen fully and without having a thick layer of wax or other artificial preservatives around it. They can observe you and other adults tasting fruits and vegetables, can enjoy the adventure of going to the market in the morning, and help you pick out things that taste good. This also allows you to support local growers who tend to use more natural growing methods than commercial suppliers that grocery stores use.
Always incorporate natural produce
In addition to incorporating more natural produce in snacks, try using some with meals. Even if you are too busy to cook a meal from scratch every night, try and incorporate more natural ingredients into your routine. Include salads with dinner. A simple tossed salad can be put together in minutes and can be full of fresh vegetables, nuts, beans, fruits or many other natural foods. Also, mix up a homemade dressing rather than use the processed bottles from the store. Just mix 1 part of vinegar with 2 to 4 parts of a natural and healthy oil, like extra virgin olive oil, and a few spices and you have a vinegarette. Let children toss the salad or, at least, add things to the bowl to give them the hands-on experience to make them feel like they helped make it too.
It’s important to have children to eat more natural, whole foods. Many people realize that but simply feel they do not have the time to do anything about it. In reality, eating healthy food is about making a series of smaller changes starting with your habits. Eat healthy fruits and vegetables, stop buying processed food, get the children involved, and use whole foods in meals and those children that used to hate everything green may start requesting it.