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Research shows it takes 21 days to stick to a new habit and the same truth holds for kids. You can’t expect your picky eater to suddenly love broccoli overnight nor can you expect him to be thrilled with snack time when you purge your pantry of everything in a bag or box.
Make no mistake: the healthy eating habits (or lake thereof) kids learn now will follow them throughout their lives.
One of the reasons we’re facing an obesity epidemic and sky high-rates of chronic conditions such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke and autoimmune diseases is because of what we eat. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, approximately 50 percent of adults has one or more preventable chronic diseases that are related to diet and a lack of physical activity.
Teaching your kids these 10 healthy eating habits will help to ensure they’re healthy now—and throughout their lives.
1. Grocery Shopping
Although it takes more time and is more stressful, bring your kids with you to the farmers’ market or grocery store and let them pick out a new food to try each week.
Kids are more likely to eat vegetables and try new foods if they feel empowered to choose what shows up on their plates. Going shopping together also teaches them how to plan meals and make healthy choices.
Teaching kids how to cook and prepare healthy meals is one of the most powerful habits you can teach your kids. According to a 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, cooking programs for kids may positively affect their food preferences, attitudes and behaviors.
When you cook with your kids, don’t do it when you’re rushing to get dinner on the table. Leave plenty of time because they’ll inevitably ask questions and spill something.
Depending on your kids’ ages, younger kids can stir, mix and pour while older kids can measure, use appliances and chop ingredients.
3. Staying Hydrated
Drinking plenty of water every day is one of the most basic healthy eating habits kids should know. Dehydration can make your kids feel tired, lack focus and struggle with easy tasks, and become constipated.
Hunger can also be mistaken for thirst so if you make sure your kids are hydrated, it can help prevent mindless snacking and weight gain.
4. Planting A Garden
Our family planted our first vegetable garden this spring and I couldn’t be more excited. If kids don’t grow up on a farm or have never visited one, they don’t know where food comes from and how it’s grown. They won’t know that carrots grow in the ground while apples grow on trees, for example.
Let your kids choose one type of vegetable to plant, and let them help you plant the seeds and pick what you grow. If you don’t have space for a garden, consider growing small plants or herbs.
5. Family Meals
With after-school activities and the frenetic pace most of us keep up, sitting down to a meal can be tough. But when you or your kids eat on the run, chances are it’s not as healthy as a meal they eat at home. Plus, kids can’t eat slowly and mindfully or enjoy what they’re eating when they’re rushed.
Do your best to make family meals a priority most days of the week since studies show kids who eat dinner together are more likely to eat healthy, and less likely to be overweight or have disordered eating. Family meals are also an opportunity for your family to have important conversations and bond.
6. Planning Ahead
One of the best healthy eating habits kids should know is how to be prepared when hunger strikes.
Rather than have a box of crackers or a bag of chips for kids to snack on, let your kids help you wash and chop fruits and vegetables and store them in glass containers.
Pre-portioned produce can be used to make a smoothie or pair them with a bean dip for a healthy snack, for example.
7. Making Room For Treats
For kids to have a healthy relationship with food they need to learn that treats and desserts are part of a healthy diet too.
When and how many times a week is up to you but teaching kids treats can—and should—be enjoyed in moderation is an important lesson to learn and make a habit of throughout their lives.
8. Eating Breakfast
A survey by Kellogg’s found nearly 90 percent of moms want their kids to eat breakfast yet 40 percent say their children don’t eat it everyday.
Eating breakfast keeps blood sugar levels steady, gives kids energy, helps them stay alert and focused and prevents weight gain and obesity.
Breakfast doesn’t have to elaborate or time-consuming. Here are some quick breakfast ideas.
9. Portion Control
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), portion sizes have doubled, even tripled, over the past 20 years and portion control isn’t always something parents talk about at home.
If your kids ask for seconds, it may not be a big deal but teaching kids portion control is still a healthy eating habit kids should know. Teach your kids how to read nutrition facts labels and help them visualize what a portion size actually looks like to avoid overeating.