Up until the late 1980’s obesity rates and chronic disease rates in kids stayed the same. Then rates of obesity, childhood diabetes and asthma skyrocketed. This means something has happened to the way kids are taught to eat from an early age. But the good news is that it can change just by knowing a few simple ways to getting your child to like healthy food.
According to the paediatrician Dr Alan Greene in his book “Feeding Baby Green“, kids have several different types of intelligence – emotional, creative, social, but now there is a new one – nutritional intelligence – “The ability to enjoy and recognise healthy food“.
Unfortunately we have raised our children to delay their understanding of nutrition and good food.
Here are some great tips to boost you child’s nutritional IQ and get them to like eating healthy food. I have also included some recipe ideas for babies and older children with products that will help your child get healthy!
How To Boost Your Child’s Nutritional IQ
Take Charge Of and Responsibility For Your And Your Child’s Health
Your child will see you as a role model. You need to change yourself by having good eating habits before your child will do the same. They learn very fast and are easily conditioned by external influences. So be careful what they are exposed to on the TV, magazines and the internet.
Try to bring your child up in an environment surrounded by good food. It’s not a good idea to get angry and have food battles with your child as this will just encourage rebellion. Making food bribes such as offering a chocolate in reward for eating vegetables is a bad idea too. This is because your child will grow up thinking that chocolate is good and vegetables are bad. Try to have meals together, it makes the child feel more grown up and part of the family. They can also see you enjoying other varieties of food and may be more inclined to try them! Use role models, such as footballers, and even older friends of theirs. A footballer’s strenuous diet and exercise regime may be a useful way to inspire them to eat healthily.
2. Use Windows Of Opportunity To Teach Your Child Good Habits
There are certain times in your child’s life where key learning shifts occur and these are the times when most lifelong conditions and habits are formed.
-Pregnancy (when they are in the womb)
-1st day of life
-When they start breast feeding
-When they start reaching for finger foods
-When they start using knives and forks
Each step will prime them for their next step, so it’s good to reinforce good habits at these times.
The hardest time to change your child is between 3 – 9 years old. After this time puberty changes their taste buds and they are then more open to different foods. So try to get them as early as possible.
Babies actually have more taste buds before they are born than after. They actually taste the fluid that surround the womb. What the mother eats actually influences the taste of this fluid and their taste buds up till 16 months of their life. So be careful of what you are eating as a mother too.
From 16 months, focus on the new skills that are emerging. This will be things like when they first use a spoon, or learn to eat with their fingers. They will be so excited by this skill that they will be more inclined to try new foods. Instead of handing them crisps, chips or biscuits, try giving them small snacks of fruits, or even a slice of baked sweet potato.
3. Stimulate All Five Senses
If you get them engaged with all of these by showing them food, getting them to smell it, taste it and talking about its benefits, they will be more likely to want to eat it. Kids like to be involved with their choices. Kids are more likely to eat a tomato if you let them cut it themselves. If they go and pick it themselves they will be even more likely to eat it. But if you actually teach them to grow their own vegetables, not only does this teach them a sense of discipline, it also empowers them and they will be more likely to eat healthy food!
4. Choose The Right Amount
You want to get your children to eat the right amount that’s satisfying and best for their body. Try to get your child to eat at the table. This way they are consciously eating and are less likely to overeat. Also get them to eat high fibre foods like fruits and vegetables as this signals them to feel fuller quicker.
5. Choose The Right Variety
Children will become adventurous eaters if you become excited about new foods. They will be more accustomed to new textures as well. e.g kids may like ketchup but they may not like the texture of a real tomato unless you expose them to it early.
You can combine lots of different varieties of foods if you can teach kids to like a particular flavour set. Like in India, kids are brought up eating curries. Because of the rich flavour of the spices, you can practically get them to eat any vegetables you throw at them. If you get them used to the flavour of real fruit smoothies, you can even throw some vegetables into the blender and they will not notice.
The key is to identify a few flavour combinations that they like such as sauces and smoothies, then you can use this to add other things in.
6. Customise Your Family
You may be families that eat out more, or eat more ready made meals, you may be Indian, or prefer halal or kosher foods. You can still customise the rules to suit your needs by knowing the healthy eating rules and habits.
7. Use Age Appropriate Activities
When children exercise or do fun physical activity, they are more likely to sleep well. A good night’s sleep leads to the production of hormones that makes your child feel good and this means they are more likely to eat healthily.
8. Go Green
Fresh vegetables, fruits, good fats, and beverages as free as possible from hormones, pesticides and chemical additives, are essential for a healthy child.