In recent years, the rise in childhood obesity and diet-related disease, like type 2 diabetes, have been hot topics of discussion. I think it is safe to say that parents want their children to be healthy, but figuring out how to help them make healthy choices may feel daunting. Particularly when simply getting your child to eat may be a battle.
The best thing you can do? Get them involved in the food choices for the family. But start small. Pick one step below that you feel comfortable with and build from there.
Plan a menu. Pick some recipes that you feel comfortable making and deem healthy options. Then let your kids help you choose which meals to make that week. For younger kids, you can use pictures and tell them about the recipes.
Make a list. Now you can create your shopping list. Older kids can help with writing the list and younger ones may be able to help you check for items you already have at home. Kids can also help you identify what staple items you may need such as cereal or favorite snacks. Make sure to read the list together so everyone knows what items you’ll be looking for at the store.
Let them help. Let them count produce items and place them in bags. This is also a great time to teach them how to pick a ripe avocado or check an apple for bruising.
Read labels. Teach older kids how to read nutrition labels and what things you look for when picking foods. It’s helpful to pick one item on the label to focus on such as saturated fat, sugar, or protein. Eventually, they can compare products to make the healthiest choice. It’s also a good idea to check the ingredients. Have them count the number of ingredients and read as many of them as they can. Encourage them to ask questions about the ingredients. This is a great way to start a conversation about how you evaluate the content of the food you buy.
Be adventurous. Ask each child to pick a fruit or vegetable they’ve never had but would like to try.
Get them in the kitchen. When it’s time to cook, find ways for kids to help prepare the meal. With just one small job kids become more involved in the process. This increases the chances they actually eat the food, even items they previously refused.
The goal is to involve and empower kids in the decision-making process around what they are eating. If you can do this, you are more likely to get their cooperation. You will likely find that trips to the grocery store are also a little easier when kids have tasks to accomplish. Remember to start with what works for you and your family. Even a small step toward healthier eating is moving in a positive direction.
Karla Gidwani lives in Lincoln Square and is mom to two young girls. Karla works for Chicago Primal Gym as a strength coach and studio manager.