How can I make real, lasting change to my child’s diet?
Healthy Ireland has recently released a new set of guidelines on what our 1-4-year-olds should be eating daily. This has come in the form of a kid’s food pyramid, a colourful and creative way to visualize the importance of different kinds of food. The #kidspyramid will give you a detailed breakdown of what your child should be eating and what they shouldn't. You will find that healthy eating is a top priority, and you might want to make adjustments in your household based on these scientific findings.
For many of us, making changes to our children's diets seems quite impossible. But sometimes it is not simply about placing broccoli and carrots on their plate and forcing them to eat. Instead, it is about creating an atmosphere of enjoyment and relaxation around mealtimes. Here are some top tips from the Healthy Ireland on how to achieve this:
Make meal plans
Family life is often hectic. Weekdays can be long and overwhelming and the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or so creating a perfectly balanced home-cooked meal after an exhausting day. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is pull a frozen pizza from the freezer and stick it on – just to get them fed and keep them happy. We can all fall into these patterns sometimes, even though we know it is not the best thing for our families.
One way to avoid this is by spending some time at the end of the week planning your meals in advance. This will give you the chance to ensure that there is variety and nutrition in the meals you serve. It will also help you save money and rely less on convenience and processed foods.
Create a daily routine
Insisting on regular mealtimes is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits. With a schedule for each meal and snack time, you will be more likely to sit down as a family and eat together. When you eat together, your children will see you enjoying nutritiousfoods and will be more likely to do the same.
Get your kids involved in cooking
Allow your children to gain some control over what they eat by getting them involved in the preparation of meals. Let them help with the shopping, washing, peeling, chopping and even cooking. This will build a social atmosphere around mealtimes making it more relaxed and fun.
Use healthier cooking methods
This is an easy one. It can be extremely beneficial to switch up your cooking methods. Instead of frying or roasting with oil or fat, try to grill bake steam or boil meals.
Cook just one main meal for the whole family
This one might seem extra tough but we must hold strong when it comes to picky eaters. As a parent cooking, more than one meal at dinner time is exhausting and unnecessary as it usually doesn’t even help. The Department of Health recommends but you only cook one meal for your family and do not make a separate dish for the picky eater in your house. Look to the new #kidspyramid for guidance as it will give you a variety of healthy foods to choose from.
Allow your child to stop eating when they are full
At some point, you will hopefully hear your children exclaimed that they are full at the dinner table. As this is normal and natural, the best thing is to allow them to stop eating when they feel full. Wait until the next snack time or meal time before offering you kids more food. This will help regulate mealtimes and create a routine.
No screens at the table
Sometimes the dinner table can feel chaotic and all we want to do his hand over the iPad so we can enjoy our dinner in peace. The problem here, is that children can be easily distracted from eating when they are preoccupied with screens. Make mealtimes a screen-free zones to avoid this.
Try not to use food as a reward for good behaviour
We have all used the tactic of offering treats as rewards for good behaviour. Though its seems to work quickly, this is not recommended. Disassociate the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ from food. Reward your child’s good behaviour with stickers or an afternoon at the park instead.
Give positive reinforcement
Show your kids how much you love healthy foods. ‘Ooh’ and ‘ah’ over fresh fruit, yummy carbohydrates and creamy dairy products. However, it is important not to put too much emphasis or focus on certain foods, such as vegetables.
Watch the video wtih lots of great advice from Louise Reynolds, INDI, talking about making changes with your kids here.
Good eating habits started early can last a lifetime - get more information from Healthy Ireland here.