Children look to adults for guidance in all aspects of their lives. Their behaviors are directly influenced by the behaviors they observe in adults. This applies to eating, too.
Adults are role models for children, and it is important to be a healthy role model in the kitchen and at the dinner table.
Here are some simple tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to help adults set a good example and get children on the right track to healthier eating habits.
- Lead the way by demonstrating the behavior. Show your children that the fruit or vegetable you want them to try is really good. Don’t expect your children to eat something that you don’t eat. You must expand your horizons, too. Try new foods and talk about the foods’ taste, appearance, texture and smell. Be physically active and encourage your children to be active, too. Take walks and play together. Remember, you are your children’s role model.
- A family that eats together is healthy together. Make a concerted effort for everyone to sit down at the dinner table and eat together. Talk about happy topics. Keep the television off and don’t take phone calls. Studies show that children in families who sit down and have dinner together are less depressed, less likely to commit suicide, less likely to do drugs, and they make better grades in school.
- Rewards should not include food. Show your children that you love them through affection and comforting words, not candy and sweets.
- Make your children your sous chefs. Including your children in grocery shopping and meal preparation gives them a sense of ownership in what has been cooked. In turn, they will more likely enjoy eating it. Be creative in the kitchen and name dishes that are healthy and delicious after your children, such as “Sarah’s Super Salad.”
- Do not provide unhealthy options. You control what your children eat. Instead of asking them if they want carrots for dinner, which gives them the opportunity to say “No,” simply ask them whether they want carrots or broccoli for dinner.
- Do not be a short-order cook. Unless there are dietary restrictions, it is important for everyone in your family to not only sit down and eat together but to eat the same meal. This makes meal planning easier and shows children that they are expected to eat the same thing as everyone else.
Remember, you are the most important person in your children’s lives. It is your responsibility to make sure that they are healthy, happy and safe. Follow these simple steps, and together you and your children will be on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
For more information on healthy meals for families, search for publications at www.extension.uga.edu/publications. For a list of healthy recipes, go to the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program website at www.fcs.uga.edu/extension/food-efnep-food-talk.