I find September feels like January- the start of a new year. For many families, returning to school means a return to routine. This is an opportune time to develop new goals, reflect on what works best for your family, and how these two things can meld to build positives habits.
As parents, we shape our children’s eating habits, (for good or for bad!). This includes the foods you choose to eat, how you prepare your food, when you eat, and even where you sit for meals. Studies show that by simply sitting down as a family together for dinner, it helps children better handle stresses of daily life while helping regulate how much they eat. Doing this becomes the corner stone of a concept called “intuitive eating” which we’ll discuss in a future post.
Exposing your children to a variety of food also helps your children as they age. As frustrating as it is, there’s no guarantee they’ll always eat what you prepare. It often requires at least 15 “tries” of a new food before kids will accept (aka. like and eat) it. This rule often goes for adults too! Even if they don’t eat it, kids are still watching you eat. By eating a variety of foods with lots of colour, you are modeling healthy eating habits that will shape their ideas of meals and their own food “norms.” Think for a moment: Do you often cook or eat similar foods to what your parents or guardians made you? I know I do! As kids age, their peers will become a larger influence on their preferences; however, you as their parent will continue to guide through modeling.
Some simple things you can do, as a parent, to help develop your child’s eating habits as they get older:
- Avoid focusing energy around unhealthy foods. It’s human nature to want what you can’t have. Approach food with balance. It’s okay to eat pizza occasionally when balanced with other healthy meals.
- Create time and space to have a meal together as a family, routinely, with no background distractions.
- Having fruits, veggies, nuts and other handheld, healthy unprocessed foods as convenient snacks is a great way to decrease the amount of pre-packaged (and high sugar!) foods consumed.
- Try, try, and try again: Keep exposing your kids to foods they may not have enjoyed the first time, exposure therapy works!
- Be gentle on yourself. Life is already busy and sometime flat out chaotic, it’s ok to opt for convenience meals from time to time.
Have you done any goal setting for this school year? What are you doing to reinforce healthy habits?
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