The very best place to begin feeding your child is in your home! I can’t tell you the number of times parents tell me their children eat poorly and that they aren’t sure what to do. It’s quite a frustrating matter, whether it’s the first child or number 10.
When parents ask what they can feed their children, I usually turn the focus around and ask them, “How well do you eat?” The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in most cases! Today’s schedules are a lot more hectic, and everybody’s time is usually limited.
Between school, work, extra-curricular activities and family commitments, how does a parent find the time to eat healthy, let alone make healthy choices for the family? The answer is simple — you have to take the time to choose wisely. I realize it may not be as simple as it sounds, but what in life is? It’s essential that parents begin healthy lifestyles for their children at home from the time they are born.
The choices you make rub off on your family. There is nothing wrong with having a treat now and then, but if you buy that chocolate bar when you stop off for gas each time with your family… they take notice and will also probably want one. If you are hungry, by all means eat something — but choose wisely.
Today’s convenience stores carry more variety than ever. Grab some pretzels, crackers and cheese, a piece of fruit or even a bagel. Pick water to drink or 100-percent juice (but split the bottle — serving size is usually for two) instead of soda. With such healthy choices, you won’t be eating empty calories, might even feel fuller and, if you choose to snack this healthy way, your family will take notice and likely do the same.
Think for a minute about how and what your family eats for breakfast or dinner. Who prepares the meals? Do you sit down to eat as a family or do you grab food on the run? Get your family involved with meal preparation.
Start off with grocery shopping.
I realize it isn’t easy to bring the whole family with you, but even if you bring one or two of your children, it can be a learning experience. Go through the aisles and actually look at the labels. Choose items that are low in sodium and saturated fat. Steer away from the processed foods (avoiding added preservatives).
You will be amazed at all the things you can learn just by reading labels and packaging. When it comes to preparing meals, have the family help. Many of our Ronco products are fun for the kids to be a part of. This will free up some of your time and you will end up with more time to spend together. Pick a new recipe, an old favorite or something quick and easy.
Talk about the foods you are preparing and why they are healthy — you might be surprised how much your children know and will have learned from their grocery shopping trip with you.
Whenever you get the chance, eat together as a family.
Eating together has an enormous influence your children’s eating behaviors. I can remember growing up and eating at the dinner table every night with the family and the usual cooked meals that were served.
Even with an infant at home, you can sit down in the morning and have breakfast when they eat and drink. You may think it seems a little early to begin teaching an infant/child about family mealtime, but as we noted before, behaviors start early on.
Regardless of the age, if you don’t reinforce the behavior to sit down and eat from the beginning, where will the children learn it’s important to do so? It’s never too late to begin this “habit.” Mealtime can be a great time for family dining and communicating, too.
Make your meals as simple or complex as you like. It’s important to establish meal time as a priority and keep it healthy. Choose a meal that includes the basic food groups: protein, starch, vegetables, fruit and dairy. Make the plate look appealing and colorful. Begin with a piece of chicken or fish (protein), a side salad with tomatoes and cooked broccoli or peppers (and other vegetables) and a cup of rice, pasta or couscous (starch). Add an 8-ounce glass of milk (dairy) and a baked or grilled apple (fruit) with cinnamon for dessert and you have a balanced meal. Try this delicious Grilled Peaches ala Mode recipe from our blog!
Skip the soda at mealtime.
There is nothing wrong with soda now and then, but it’s added calories with no nutrient value. Substitute with water. Water contains no calories and won’t fill you up as much. You may even notice your family eating more if you eliminate sodas and additional drinks.
If you are on the go, as most of us are, and time is limited, “brown bag” lunch or dinner and send the children off with a meal that is nutrient-rich. Pack it together and give them choices. Offer them a few fruits to choose from.
If you provide variety and allow them to make a choice, your family will feel like they are a part of the decision-making process and this will, in turn, promote positive behavior. Together, you can choose healthy selections. Load the bag with a turkey and cheese sandwich, carrot sticks, a banana and a bottle of water, for example. In fact, make an extra bag for you — remember, you are a role model.