Educate your family. Explain all the benefits of healthy eating – better digestion, lower body weight, increased stamina, clearer skin (especially important to teens), and healthy brain function for optimal academic performance. Teach them how to read labels so they can see for themselves how many chemicals and preservatives are actually found in packaged foods.
Eat breakfast. It’s a fact that children who eat breakfast do better in school. Set the alarm a few minutes early and prepare a simple, yet wholesome breakfast of oatmeal, fruit and whole grain toast.
Don’t bring junk food into the house. If it’s not there, you can’t eat it. Keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand like nuts, fruit, celery sticks, granola bars, whole grain crackers, low-fat cheese and yogurt.
Eat fruit or veggies at every meal. Include at least one serving of a fruit or vegetable at each meal. Allow your child to select which fruits they want so they feel involved. You can also sneak in more vegetables by adding them to your child’s favorite foods. For example, add broccoli to pizza or zucchini to lasagna.
Have dinner as a family. With all the extracurricular activities it can be challenging to eat as a family. Several times a week carve out at least 30 minutes for the family to sit together without TV, cell phones or other distractions.
Select healthy substitutions. Ease into healthy eating by first substituting certain foods. Instead of soda for dinner, serve skim milk, have water or green tea at snack time instead of sugary fruit drinks.
Lead by example. If you’re eating chocolate cake while insisting your children eat carrot sticks, you’re sending the wrong message. Children learn by example. Eat foods you want them to eat and they’re more likely to follow suit. Keep a healthy diet of low sodium and no added sugars, cholesterol or saturated fats.
Give kids a choice. Involve them in the process of planning the meals, purchasing the ingredients, and preparing the meal. Children are often more willing to try foods they’ve helped select.
Don’t use food as a reward. Using sweets or junk food as a reward for good behavior or as a mood pick-me-up starts a bad habit that can lead to emotional eating as an adult. Emotional eating is a leading cause of obesity.
Pack school lunches. Home-prepared foods are typically healthier than those prepared by institutions. Focus on low-fat options like turkey sandwiches on whole grain bread with lettuce and tomato and sides of fresh fruit. So that they don’t feel completely deprived, allow then one day each week to buy a school lunch.
Monitor water consumption. You can tell if your child’s drinking enough water by their lips – soft and moist means they’re properly hydrated; dry and cracked means they’re not. Make a game of drinking water. Fill up a water container for each child and challenge them to drink it all during a set time.
Introduce supplements. Even if you think you’re eating right, you may still be missing some key vitamins and minerals. A high quality multivitamin can help cover the bases that diet alone may lack.
Identify the enablers. This is often well-meaning grandparents, parents of children’s friends, and neighbors. Let them know about your guidelines and encourage them to support healthy snacks.
Avoid food power struggles. Don’t make food a battle and don’t cave into making separate meals for each individual. Continue serving healthy choices and your child will eventually be hungry and eat.
Eat slowly. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize the stomach’s full. When you gulp down food, you’re more likely to overeat, gain weight, and suffer from poor digestion. Eating slowly allows you to enjoy flavors and textures more too.
Allow yourself a free day. For six days a week eat healthy, on the seventh treat the family to ice cream, pizza or a snack of choice.
Instill healthy eating habits with your family may be difficult at first, but the payback of a long, healthier, happier life is well worth it.