A Good Foundation
First and foremost in teaching children the importance of good nutrition, is to start at an early age as possible. Starting them off young is often easier for both parent and child, and will benefit the whole family as well. Regardless however, whether the child is very young or a bit more mature, teaching them about how to have a healthy outlook on nutrition is important to a long and healthy life. Teaching nutrition to children can be accomplished with just a few simple steps.
Children have natural instincts to eat what will sustain them. With most small children comes uncommon eating patterns, interest in single foods (often for days at a time), and of course, not wanting to eat at all. Through it all, parents and caretakers of their children should remember to simply introduce healthy food options often, and remain consistent while offering variety.
Begin with foods from the Food Guide Pyramid: vegetables, fruits, lean meats, dairy, and small amounts of healthy fats. For example, offering easy to carry foods are great options. Items such as apples, string cheese, sandwiches, or even raw vegetables in a snack bag (a favorite in our house), will allow them freedom to remain active. Children have a desire to keep moving constantly, so eating small snacks throughout the day will encourage them to eat often as well, instead of sitting down to heavier meals. Most kids thrive by having a routine; however, do try to offer them new foods once in a while to increase their palate for a broader range of foods later on.
Another thing to remember is that children are led by example. If we are eating and living in a healthy manner, the child will then follow. Being prepared and learning what foods are best (i.e. wheat not white, baked not fried) will benefit both adult and child towards making good choices. Make sure to have a variety of healthy foods that are easily accessible to them for snacking; at eye level and within reach. Make eating fun and not a chore, by doing things like creating a "picnic" in the living room, or giving them humorous books to read that explain why eating right is so important.
As children get older, they will often get to make more nutritional choices on their own. Soon they start asking for what they see other kids eating during lunchtime, or after school at sports practice. If a child is going to an event, such as a birthday party, have them fill their plate with a few healthier items first, and then go back for that sweet treat or piece of birthday cake later on. This is an excellent way to ensure good nutrition and discipline when eating, while still allowing them that treat for themselves with friends.
Overall, teaching nutrition to children requires being patient with them, and giving a consistency of healthy foods in their diet, while still allowing a small space for that occasional treat. This practice will set them up to being healthy for life well into adulthood.
Kids Food Guide Pyramid-www.keepkidshealthy.com
Nutrition for Children and Teens-www.helpguide.org
Parents Role: Teaching Children Healthy Nutrition-www.nourishinteractive.com