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Today I have a guest post from the lovely Dr Orlena Kerek
If your children are anything like mine, getting them to eat a healthy, balance diet (or more specifically vegetables) is a bit of a mission. I lovingly prepare a healthy dinner, packed full of vegetables and what happens? There are cries of “yuck” and “I don’t like pasta, I only like spaghetti” or “why did you put so many vegetables in it?” ‘it’ being the vegetable pasta.
At times, I wonder if it’s worth the effort. But I know it is. I know that if I instil healthy eating habits now, my children have a much greater chance of continuing those habits into adulthood.
Lifetime of Healthy Eating
A lifetime of healthy eating, greatly reduces your chances of getting some diseases. Obviously obesity is linked to diet (and all its complications of which some like heart and lung failure are actually life threatening.) But there are also others, certain cancers, which are also linked to diet. And not life threatening, but very common and not very pleasant is constipation.
So yes, I know that teaching my children healthy habits is worthwhile. But amidst those cries of “not more vegetables” and “I want more ham”, how does one go about not losing your sanity or your temper?
Look at the Bigger Picture
The first thing I would advise, is to look at the bigger picture. That particular pea or carrot is not worth arguing over. Children usually win the “Battle of the pea”. They are stubborn and you can’t beat them.
The crosser you get, the more they refuse. Look at the bigger picture. You’re trying to teach them habits for life. In the same way that teaching them to swim or ride a bike doesn’t happen overnight, nor does healthy eating.
Some children (not mine) will naturally choose healthy foods, but the majority prefer sweets and ice cream, which is fine from time to time, but shouldn’t be ‘always’.
Eating healthily together is another great way to help children grow up with good eating habits. Children learn by copying what they see. If they see their parents eating healthily and enjoying it, they will eventually join in.
I know, I know, mealtimes with young children can be noisy boisterous affairs but stick at it, they’re only little once. (And I know that this can be difficult for people due to working patterns, but do it as often as you can and if that’s not very often, make a celebration of it.)
Get the Kids Involved
And you know what, eating and cooking healthy food doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Actually, it probably works out cheaper to cook from scratch than using all those not so healthy packet options.
Get the kids involved. Mine love making apple crumble (which is essentially cooked up apples with a bit of topping.) Not only is it cheap and easy to make, it’s nutritious and much better for you than most of those puddings that come in pots. (And for some reason my kids think it’s great fun to eat the apples whilst we make it, a bit like licking the cake mix off a spoon but actually just nibbling around the cores.)
Variety is the Spice of Life
Another great trick is to offer them a variety of healthy things to eat, dips and raw vegetables is a great way to start. It seems to work by bamboozling them with choice. They seem to forget that they ‘don’t like carrots’ and try them amongst all the other things. Last week my 3 year old even ate celery. (OK, he didn’t today but trying it is a start.)
So, stick at it, don’t lose heart and you’ll get there in the end.
I’m Dr Orlena Kerek, paediatrician and mother of 4 young children (still small enough to fit in the bath together, just). I blog about raising healthy happy children at snotty-noses.com. I have a special interest in helping children eat a healthy diet. If you sign up to my newsletter you’ll get a free copy of 30 Tips to get your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables.