6 Ways to Teach Your Children How to Eat Healthy

Last spring, registered dietician Leora Martin from Oasis International Hospital held an informative parenting seminar at the Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing). In case you missed this workshop, Ms Martin was thankfully kind enough to break her presentation down into six essential tips for how to instill healthy eating habits in your children!

Presentation is everything!

Your child is bombarded with advertising from fast food chains, well-designed candy wrap and chip packaging every day, so it’s not surprising if your salad and boiled vegetables don’t look appetizing.  Try putting in more effort to present colorful varieties of foods in cute packaging, whether pink cupcake holders or bright lunch boxes.  Even water can be spiced up if infused with mint leaves, strawberries, cucumbers, or lemons. No time? Carry a funky straw that can be put in any cup or glass!

Children like choices!

Give your child healthy options. If you give your kid a choice of a cucumber with or without a peel, or water in a cup with or without ice, it is no longer about whether your kid wants a cucumber to eat or water to drink, but how he/she wants it. Being able to choose what to eat is exciting for a child as children are not usually given choices in their daily lives.  By giving your kid a choice, you can prompt them to eat a healthy food that they previously had little interest in.

Don’t nag! 

Avoid negative comments regarding eating or food choices as even innocent comments can be misinterpreted by sensitive children, especially teens.  Comments on the amount of food they eat, or how much they suddenly like a certain food (“You really like those potatoes, huh?”), or nagging remarks about how they never eat their vegetables are not helpful.  Instead, encourage your child by positively reinforcing their healthy eating habits. Remember that children’s tastes change, and sometimes they will prefer one food over another, and it doesn’t matter if they don’t want to eat something that they had loved last week.

Set house rules! 

Every family has their own house rules when it comes to eating, and Martin recommends Ellyn Satter’s theoryon the “division of feeding”:

    - Parents/adults decide when food is eaten (e.g. 6pm), where it is eaten (e.g. dining table), and what is eaten (salad and pasta).
    - Children decide whether they want to eat (they have the right to decline) and how much they eat (children naturally know if they’re full).

Martin discourages “force feeding”, which is when children are told to not leave the table before they clear their plates, or when nannies chase children until their bowls are emptied.  Families should discourage children to play or become distracted by games, television, or toys as such passive eating is one of the (many) causes of child obesity.

Everything in moderation!

Try not to outlaw anything in the house (unless due to allergies), especially if your child knows the foods you’ve outlawed are common and easily available to other children.  No food should be strictly forbidden because it might encourage children to hoard it secretly, oftentimes leading to binging.

Lead by example!  

Children are observant, and will immediately notice if you’re eating something different from what you’ve given them.  If you’re eating a hamburger with coke, and you serve your child a couscous salad, it raises many questions and labels you a hypocrite.  However, if everyone at the table eats the same food, then there is little reason to protest.

Note: These tips originally appeared in a Beijing Kids article on May 10. Please follow the link for the original piece.

Love these tips? Be sure to keep an eye on the YCIS Beijing events pagefor future parenting workshops and similar events!

For the most recent happenings at YCIS Beijing, check out our news page.

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