The kitchen is the best place to help your child develop positive eating habits. Consider the following activities and routines to give your child a foundation in healthy nutrition.
Allow children to help plan and prepare meals
Children can learn about positive eating by playing a part, no matter how small, in planning family meals. For example, you might allow your child to pick their favourite meal once a week or have them help write a shopping list.
As children get older, they can play a greater role in preparing family meals. They can start by washing vegetables or doing some mixing. Over time they can read recipes and chop ingredients. Involving the whole family in preparing food will lead to more support for what is served at the table.
Do not skip breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, how many of us demonstrate that every day to our children? A growing child needs a healthy breakfast to give them the best start to their day. When breakfast is a non-negotiable part of the family routine, children have more energy and are better able to concentrate. They are also far less likely to choose sugary or other unhealthy snacks later in the day.
Why not look up some of the healthy breakfast options for toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children and tweens and teens? Many of these can be made the night before. Some even make for healthy breakfasts on the go, when there is not enough time to sit at the table.
Continue family mealtime routines
A child’s experience at the dinner table can have an impact on their approach to food later in life. Follow your child’s hunger cues and offer a balanced diet. This will help reduce the risk that your child will develop strong food dislikes. It will also help reduce the risk that your child will develop a preference for oversized portions or unhealthy foods. Both of these things could lead to childhood obesity.
Research shows that relaxed and routine family mealtimes play a key role in developing good habits at the dinner table. For example, children and teens who eat more than three family meals a week are less likely to be overweight. Teens who eat at least five meals with their family are less likely to develop an eating disorder.
The benefits of family meals go beyond nutrition. Sharing food and talking around the table encourages other healthy behaviours. Younger children learn vital communication skills. Older children and teens who eat often with their families are less likely to have problems at school, engage in anti-social behaviour or abuse drugs or alcohol.
Family mealtimes are an opportunity for children to build stronger bonds with those closest to them. It also gives them the chance to receive the supports they need to minimize the impact of negative influences outside the home.
Just for Kids
You can help your child learn about eating well with some tips from the Just for Kids section of our site.