Getting your kids to eat more vegetables, try new foods and stop being picky eaters once and for all is no easy feat. No matter how hard you try to get your kids to eat healthy however, these bad eating habits can hinder your best efforts and ruin your kid’s health.
1. Relying On Packages
Crackers, chips, fruit leather and other snack foods are easy and convenient for school, sports or at the park, but continue to feed your kids processed snacks and they’ll grow up thinking eating foods out of bags, boxes and canisters is the norm.
Blame it on the sugar and salt, but these highly processed foods are also the most addictive, a 2015 study out of the University of Michigan found.
Of course, most packaged snacks lack fiber, protein and nutrition and are filled with sodium, refined carbohydrates, sugar and sodium. Over time, eating fake food can lead to inflammation, leaky gut syndrome and a slew of health problems.
2. Hitting the Drive-Through
You might not go to McDonald’s or Burger King but fast food restaurants often marketed as healthier are anything but.
Most of these places serve foods high in calories, sodium and saturated fat. They may have grilled chicken and apple slices for example, but I think it’s safe to say most kids are ordering the French fries.
Visiting these fast food joints frequently can put your kids at an increased risk for nutritional deficiencies, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and weight gain. Not to mention that when kids eat fast food regularly, they lose all taste for real food.
3. Serving Juice
You might think juice is a healthy option for your child and although it can be a source of some vitamins and minerals, most kids don’t need juice nor should they be drinking it. Juice lacks fiber, is high in sugar and caters to kids’ sweet preferences. Drinking juice can also spike your kids’ blood sugar, cause cavities and lead weight gain.
4. Skipping Breakfast
The mornings are hectic especially when you have to get to work, drop the kids off at daycare or get them to school. Yet breakfast is the most important meal of the day especially for kids because it keeps their blood sugar levels steady, gives them the energy they need to learn and play and helps them stay alert and focused.
Eating breakfast may also prevent kids from feeling famished by lunch time and prevent weight gain.
5. Forgetting Family Meals
Between after-school activities and hectic schedules, it can be challenging to have dinner as a family together every night.
Yet children who eat with their families at least 3 times a week are less likely to be overweight, eat unhealthy foods and have disordered eating and are more likely to eat healthy foods, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.
The good news: dinner may be the only time you’re able to sit down as a family but other meals count too.
6. Mindless Munching
As moms, we’re constantly multitasking. But rushing through meals, eating in the car, while checking email or rummaging through the pantry instead of sitting down to a meal are bad habits that your kids can pick up too.
Just as your kids can learn to love salads, they can learn your unhealthy eating habits and carry with them throughout their lives. It’s one of the reasons more than a third of adults are obese.
When eating meals, sit down at the table, avoid distractions and savor your food. To ensure your kids are hungry for meals, don’t let them snack all day.
7. Serving Kids’ Foods
Chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and pizza are sure-fire foods to get picky eaters to eat something but feeding kids a separate meal or foods you know they’ll eat also ensures they’ll continue to be picky eaters.
If they don’t have opportunities every day to taste and experience new, fresh, real foods, they can’t form food preferences or be willing to accept new foods. They’ll also miss out on key nutrients they would otherwise get from a healthy diet.
8. Stocking the Kitchen With Tempting Foods
If your kitchen pantry is filled with junk, it’s only natural that your kids will reach for it.
Slowly purge all of the unhealthy fare and keep healthy foods you want your kids to eat in plain sight, like a fruit bowl on the counter or cut up veggies in the front of the refrigerator.
9. Eating Too Much Sugar
Sweet treats and sly marketing are everywhere, tempting kids to ask, “can I have that?” Even if you don’t keep sugar in your house, chances are you kids can get a lollipop at the bank, an ice cream at the mall or candy a gas station or rest stop.
It’s not just sweets that are high in sugar but sugar is in sneaky sources and can add up quickly if you’re not taking stock. In fact, between 2011 and 2014, more than 62 percent of kids consumed a sugary-sweetened beverage, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Set limits on what you think is fair: maybe it’s a treat a day or treats only on the weekends.
10. Pleading, Negotiating and Bribing
Next to bedtime, mealtimes can be one of the most challenging times of day and it’s almost always a power struggle. Not only is it incredibly frustrating to negotiate one more bite in exchange for dessert for example, but kids learn their meal is less desirable than dessert and they never learn how to make healthy choices.
Instead, offer plenty of healthy options and empower kids to make their own choices so whatever they choose will be OK with you.