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Encourage children to have healthy eating habits.

As most parents know, fussy eating is a problem that occurs amongst almost all children at some time in their lives. Children can refuse to eat certain foods for a variety of reasons, ranging from their taste and texture to the colour of the food.

Some children will not try foods that are unfamiliar to them, which creates challenges for parents seeking to introduce new foods into their children’s diet. Below we provide some suggestions to encourage your children to have a healthy relationship with food. Building healthy meal patterns for kids starts at home. You can do many things as a parent to encourage healthy eating.

Fruit and vegetables contributing to a healthy diet..

Involve children in shopping!

Parents know, it is easier to shop without children, but if you are trying to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food, taking your children food shopping is an important step. The food that is available in your cupboards, fridge, freezer, and pantry are the foods your children will get used to eating. Kids are more likely to give a new food a try if they have had a hand in making it and see you eating it too!

Child shopping for health groceries with Mum.

Involve children in cooking.

Involving children in the planning and preparation of meals gives them a sense of control over what they are eating. You can do this by letting them choose some of the meals being served each week, allowing them to pick the produce at the grocery store, or mixing/adding ingredients during meal prep.

Mum and daughter preparing a healthy meal together..

Do not force:

Choice is a key element in encouraging your child to develop a healthy relationship with food. Whilst exposing children to new foods and ways of preparing them can help raise adventurous eaters, it is unlikely that they will love every food.

Lead by example:

As a parent, you play an important role in shaping your children’s eating habits. Children are highly influenced by their environment, parents, and external factors; therefore, it is important that parents role model healthy eating. You have a big impact over what food you purchase, prepare, and introduce to your children and the types of food your children eat. Positive experiences of healthy eating early in life may assist to shape healthy eating habits later in life.

Eat together as a family:

Family who eats meals together with their children tend to eat healthier foods, like fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains. The importance of eating together goes beyond nutrition. Research indicates many other benefits of eating together as a family including increased vocabulary in children, improved behaviour and more likely to maintain a healthy body weight.

Family enjoying a healthy dinner with their children...

Create regular meal and snack times:

Regular meal and snack time every day, creates a healthy routine. When children snack just prior to a main meal or fill up on beverages, they may not feel hungry when it is time to eat, which can influence the foods they choose to eat. Plan to offer a meal or a snack every 2-3 hours per day. If your child request food in between scheduled meal or snacks, offer them foods like fruit or vegetables.

Young child enjoying healthy fruit snack.

Healthy lunchboxes!

Include the following items:

  • Main lunch that includes carbohydrates for energy – sandwiches, wraps, rolls, warm leftovers or salads based on grains such as pasta, rice or quinoa.

  • Nutritious snack from the 5 food groups

  • Piece of seasonal fruit, or tinned fruit in natural juice

  • Water bottle and a small low fat milk (less than 300 mL). These can be frozen to help keep foods in the lunch box cool. Sweet drinks such as juice, cordial, sports drinks, flavoured mineral waters and fizzy drinks are high in sugar and are not recommended

  • +1 extra snack for active, growing bodies. Every child is different and may need an additional snack depending on their activity level or rate of growth. Choose a nutritious snack from the 5 food groups.

School lunchbox filled with healthy food

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