It’s an unfortunate fact that the rise in the popularity of fast food, fizzy drinks and sugary snacks has had a significant impact on the health of the UKs children. Meals taken in front of the TV or just snatched in a hurry are not good ways to encourage children to eat healthily.
Yet there are plenty of options for families to develop ways to bring everyone together at mealtimes and to ensure that they not only eat healthy dinners but enjoy them as well. Children are great imitators of adults, so if they are given poor examples of diet or the ways in which meals are cooked or presented during their early years, they will become entrenched habits that are difficult to change when they are older.
Here are some ideas to consider when thinking about developing those healthy eating habits.
Be creative with food
Children love to have fun so why not make mealtimes fun too? Cut fresh vegetables and fruit into fun food faces or make up some silly names for what is prepared. Spaghetti just has to become “wiggling worms” to be fun, and putting a creative slant on other food names will give the children a laugh as they’re eating. Let them come up with their own names too – the plan is to distract them and get them actively to enjoy eating what is front of them.
Get them involved
Children love to be given the opportunity to cook, so involving them in preparations is an excellent way to get them to know more about the healthy choices available in the kitchen. Let them mix to their heart’s desire; it’s as well to be prepared for things to get messy! They can be shown – carefully – how to chop vegetables or peel potatoes, and start to learn about portion control and units of measurement.
When everything is ready they should be encouraged to set the table for dinner, with everyone sitting down together to eat at the same time. Sometimes just sitting round an attractive oak dining table, eating and chatting as a family, is the perfect way to set a good example for the future.
Start growing things
Another source of fascination for children is growing things from seed or a young plant, and there’s nothing to beat watching tomatoes as they grow and ripen, or the flowers that turn into pea pods. Growing space does not have to be huge and if there is sufficient room it’s perfectly possible to grower smaller foodstuffs inside. Sometimes farmers’ markets also have interesting things for children to do, and most sellers would be happy to talk and give advice about what they grow.
Go shopping together
Instead of the often constant whine of “I want that”, try involving children in the shopping experience. Encourage them to bag up oranges or apples, or even a new fruit to try out, and to weigh them. Let them take the shopping out of the trolley and put it on the conveyor belt, and if paying cash give them the money to hand over. It makes them feel important and gets them into the habit of shopping for, as well as eating, healthy food.