How to get the kids to eat better

Healthy Foods equals Happy Eating, which equals Less Stress

Our resident physiotherapist and musculoskeletal health and injury rehab expert, Matthew McArdle MA BSc(Hons), discusses how we and our children can benefit from a healthier diet and lifestyle.

A survey conducted in 2020 revealed that a combined 16 percent of respondents living in households with two children in the United Kingdom (UK) agreed that a healthy diet was an important part of their life, compared to 13 percent of the respondents from households without any children.

As the new year starts, lots of us will be trying to eat better; eat “cleaner” and consume a few less of the high calorie, nutritionally devoid treats we all tend to love so much.

But what about our children? How do we get them to eat healthier and do we actually need to?

If our children are obese or unhealthy through poor diet then we are creating problems that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. It is also imperative that we help our children develop a healthy relationship with food

As a dad myself, and working in the industry as I do, I am very conscious about what my children eat and drink. Given the choice you would expect them to always choose McDonalds or KFC or whatever other “junk food” they may fancy.

Don’t get me wrong, they enjoy a Big Mac Meal, “Can I have it large Dad please;” but it’s not something they will ask for all the time.

In fact at a weekend I’ll ask them what’s for tea on Saturday and they’ll take it in turns at choosing what we cook together. It could be fajita night, or we will make a curry together, or our home made burgers or whatever takes our fancy. And this in itself is a key to getting them eating healthier.

How to get kids to eat healthier

WE. COOK. TOGETHER. From scratch.

Children love to eat a meal they’ve prepared and cooked themselves. And it’s a fabulous life skill to give them.

I started young with mine. They would stand on a chair in the kitchen and help me chop, they would mix and then stir pans of food. Then serve it on to the plates and put it on the table they’d set.

We still do this and then we eat. TOGETHER.

This is also key. We sit and we eat together. They see their dad eating the food we’ve cooked together and they follow suit. And we always have a jug of ice cold water.

And that leads nicely to the next important point. When I was a child my mum had a poem on her bedside table that was about children learning what they live. So children will also follow the habits of their parents, in particular around diet. So:…

If they only see you eating junk food, they’ll only want to eat junk food.

If you only drink fizzy pop, they will also drink fizzy pop.

If you refuse to eat vegetables, so will they.

Instead, by following a healthy diet yourself, your children are more likely to do so. It’s essential we encourage our children to have a healthy relationship with food. This means no foods are off limits – we may limit them but never off limits.

Good habits and healthy choices are encouraged. But sometimes choosing the less healthy option is never a vehicle to guilt anyone-especially children. In fact the less healthy option at times is to be encouraged as food should be enjoyed and treats are part of that.

So in summary, set a good example, eat together, cook together and enjoy food together.

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