When it comes to teaching children, actions speak louder than words. Healthy eating habits and exercise start at an early age. Kids imitate everything we do. It’s pretty simple; they want to do what we do. I still remember saying to myself as a kid, I’m not going to be like my mom when I grow up. When in fact, I’m her twin. I do everything thing like my mom use to do when it comes to raising my kiddos. I must say I love her for it. She taught me a lot, especially about healthy eating.  I’m so lucky I get to pass what I have learned to my two little ones. I grew up eating fresh veggies, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains and not eating processed foods. Going out for a pizza dinner was an extra treat that we had maybe once a month.  From toddlers to teens here are some tips to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits. Your kids will love you for it as they get older.

Tip 1: Have family meals. Having a family ritual is comforting to both the parents and the kids. It’s a chance to talk about what’s going on and communicate. Kids who take part in family meals tend to eat more fruits, veggies and whole grains. They are less likely to snack on junk food and are less likely to start to smoke and drink alcohol.  Family meals offer the chance to introduce kids to new foods. Having our family meal is my favorite part of my day. I love to hear the stories my kids have to share and I can be a role model as I eat all the good stuff on my plate.

Tip 2: Stocking up on healthy foods. Kids will usually eat what you have at home.  So it so important to control what types of food you have available. When shopping for groceries try to stay on the perimeter of the store, where the fresh fruits, veggies, dairy and the lean proteins are. It makes it easy for them to choose a healthy snack. My weekly staples from the grocery store are fruits, veggies, peanut butter, whole grain crackers, cheese, eggs, nuts and yogurt. One of my oldest son’s favorite snacks is an egg salad sandwich made with ripe avocado on whole grain bread. My baby boy’s favorite is whole grain crackers with spreadable herb cheese and fruit. When I hear them ask for their favorite snacks it makes me feel great knowing how delicious and nutritious their choices are! WHOOP! WHOOP!  

When cooking your foods try not to fry them.  We usually sauté, stream or grill our favorite foods (thanks to my hubby the grill master). I haven’t turned the oven on in a long time. I’m also so thankful for the crock-pot. Talk about easy.  I prepare just about anything in the crock-pot, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between.  I must say she is my go to appliance in the kitchen. Add all the ingredients cover and turn it on.  While it’s cooking you can go run errands or even sneak in a workout. Get home and BANG! Dinner is done!!!.   I love it!  I do treat my kids. They ask for their favorite restaurant treat Chick-Fil-A! I find myself sitting in the drive thru once a week. I usually allow them to have those tasty chicken nuggets as a dinner treat at the end of the week. I call it when mommy is super tired and I don’t want to cook Fridays!  As long as they don’t overindulge, treats are great!!!

Tip 3: Be a role model. The best way to encourage healthy eating is to eat healthy yourself.  Kids love to play follow the leader .They will follow the lead of the adult they see every day. I practice portion control with my kids. We make sure we don’t eat until we are stuffed, but until we feel satisfied.  By eating healthy and not over indulging in the bad stuff the kids will get the message.

Tip 4: Don’t battle over food. Parents sometimes find themselves bargaining or bribing their kids to eat food. (Been there, done that). As parents we tend to control everything.  If we allow them to have some control of what they eat there is less stress and arguing of what to eat. Let them decide if they are hungry.  Have them help with the menu for the week. Planning what to eat is fun. They get pretty excited when they know what is on the menu for that day.  Try to keep scheduled meals, don’t force them to clear their plates, don’t reward with food and never use food to show love.  I love yous, hugs and kisses work best!

Tip 5: Get them involved.  Dinner time use to be stressful for me.  The kids are tired and hungry and so am I. I felt like I had to control the kitchen.  During dinner preparation I try to give my boys a job.  When they get to choose a healthy dinner and prepare it, cuts way down on the stress level. It’s a lot easier for me to let them have a say of what they want to eat when they are choosing the good stuff. When kids are involved it helps prepare them to make good decisions in the future on about foods they want to eat. I love it when I hear someone comment on how healthy my kids eat and how they take after their mommy!!

The mealtime habits we create for our kids today can lead to a lifetime of healthier choices. I hope this tips will help!

Happy Healthy Eating With Your Kiddos Forever!