One of the things I look most forward to when things return to “normal” following the pandemic is being able to take my kids to the grocery with me. I know that sounds insane and some people go to the grocery just to be away from their kids, but I feel like food knowledge is one of the most important things I can pass on to my children.
As parents, you guide the eating habits and routines of children as they grow up. They are not going to try new healthy foods if you do not buy them and give them the opportunity. The foods that they learn to love as children will be staples with them throughout their entire life. This could be great or it could instill habits and preferences that are hard to break later.
There are a few things that we can do to help our children learn how to make healthier choices, but at the same time not develop orthorexia (or orthorexia nervosa, is an eating disorder that involves an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating).
Be Careful How You Refer to Foods
If you refer to food items as “good” or “bad” you may be doing more harm than good. Think about “bad foods” right now. What comes to mind? Donuts? Pizza? Ice Cream? Fries? These are things that you will find in my house once in a while and I do not want my kids to have guilt around them. The truth is, some things that you might consider “good foods” are not any better for you. Like orange juice, yogurt, whole wheat bread and sugar free candy. Moderation is the key. My kids know that ice cream is not part of the foundation of a healthy diet, but having a scoop once in a while on a special occasion is ok and fun.
Let the Kids Help With Picking Out Meals
My wife and I set the dinner menu for the week every Sunday morning. I then proceed to go to the grocery (or multiple stores) to get the ingredients we need. We usually make the kids part of this process. They can make suggestions as to what meals they would like that week. Our four-year old goes with macaroni and cheese every time. It makes it on the menu about once a month, but he never gives up hope! When we end up having a meal that one of the kids suggested, it’s no problem getting them to eat that night. Even if we add in a vegetable or side that they didn’t suggest, the plate usually ends up clean.
Get the Kids in the Kitchen
If you are the parent that cooks, having the kids in the kitchen with you when preparing dinner might sound like a nightmare. But if they are old enough, they can actually be a help! Kids Cook Monday is a campaign that encourages families to declare Monday as family night and spend time together making and eating meals. Take advantage of the extra time at home to get your kids hands-on with the cooking at least one night a week. Then once you are all at the table eating, let them brag to the rest of the family that they helped make the meal.
Cook with Fresh Ingredients
This goes back to my original statement about taking kids to the grocery. I enjoy talking with them about different foods and teaching them how to differentiate what they see in the front of a package from what the Nutrition Facts and ingredients on the back actually tell them. They will notice when you load up the cart with real food first before adding in a few processed items. Have them open the produce bags for you! They think it's fun and it's one less thing I have to do. Take them to farmers markets so they can see and meet the people growing the food you purchase. You can visit localharvest.org to find a local farmers market near you.
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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,