Moms influence their children’s eating behavior in a many ways without even realizing their impact they can have – good or bad – on the entire family. Every day moms (most often) choose what foods to purchase, prepare, and serve, and as a result, it’s the mama who inadvertently becomes the role model of what a daily diet should look like.
It’s no small undertaking!
But helping your children to make healthy food choices isn’t just about the short term (what are we having for dinner); these choices will continue to impact your children for a long time to come.
Studies have already shown that our eating patterns and preferences are formed in our early years; so for better or for worse, we learn what to eat as well as when to eat from the people around us.
We also establish our taste preferences in those years as well. A child who is over-exposed to sweet, salty or processed foods will be more likely to grab those types of foods when they reach adulthood.
So the bottom line is: moms play a significant role in the lifelong health of their children.
That’s a pretty heavy burden to bear! No worries, we’ve defined 6 simple ways that you can make healthier food choices today that will impact your children for decades to come.
1. Think holistically
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the idea of feeding and shaping your child’s tastes for the future. After all, right now it may seem like there is so much riding on your own decisions! But instead of worrying about what your child is consuming at one particular meal (hello, we’re talking to you, helicopter mom), start by thinking holistically.
What to do:
Worry less about a particular meal (How many serving of protein do they have? Is that the right kind of carbs?), and rather look at what are they eating over the entire day (or even over a few days). You are creating a lifestyle; a new way of living, so think of your family’s eating habits as a long term solution not a short them fix.
2. Let your child choose
A child who kicks up a fuss at supper time might not be upset with the presentation of veggies, necessarily, but with the lack of control they have in their lives. Let’s face it, when our children are young, we make almost all the decisions for them; what they will wear, what time they go to bed, and even when they go to the bathroom. No wonder we often come against battle of the wills!
What to do:
Try adding a choice before prepping your child’s snack (while still guiding your child towards those healthy foods). For example, “Would you rather have peas or green beans tonight?” or “Do you prefer carrots or tomatoes?”
These types of questions, giving your child freedom to choose (within a healthy boundary) steers your child from a yes or no (and let’s be honest, when given the opportunity to say ‘no’ that will be the answer they will choose!) and may pave the way for a smoother, and vitamin-packed, dinner time.
Yes, we know that fruits and vegetables are lumped into one food group, but even too much fruit can be unhealthy.
It’s true, fruits do make for a great pick-me-up snack a couple of times a day but they are also high in sugar (despite being from a natural and unprocessed source, it is sugar) and sugar can cause tooth decay, hyperactivity, and even increases the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
What to do:
Replace fruit as a convenient snack with easy-to-eat veggies such as colorful red, green or orange peppers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, or cucumber sticks served with avocado, hummus (a well-loved Middle Eastern chickpeas and tahini dip) or homemade salsa.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of the processed-junk-food-diet filled with trans fat, is the low fat diet but low fat is not intended, or safe, for children! Good fats, like those from coconut oils or avocado should make up 30% of a child’s diet; in fact “good” (saturated) fats are essential to the growth of their bodies and brains.
Ditch the fats found in processed fare and throw the low-fat substitutes in the garbage and definitely avoid trans and engineered fats like hydrogenated oils and shortening.
What to do:
Add in healthy sources of dietary fat includes coconut, avocados, olives and olive oil, eggs, fish, organ meats, wild game, nuts, and seeds.
Protein is important for children, who are growing rapidly, because it helps to support and promote their development, including the growth and maintenance of bones, muscles, blood, skin, hair, and organs.
What to do:
Add eggs, peanut and other nut butters, lean meats, fish, poultry, beans, lentils, and legumes, in your child’s diet.
6. Rethink your cookware
With the cookware market saturated with new gimmicky cookware, healthy cookware has taken a back seat. To make things worse, manufacturers and distributors are not even honest about labeling their cookware as toxic (think harmful Teflon).
Pure aluminum cookware is made from toxic materials that leach their toxic substances and causes diseases and some non-stick cookware has chemicals that are harmful as well.
Luckily, there is healthy cookware on the market. Stone frying pans are 100% free from the lethal Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) so no harmful chemicals enter your food or your body. Not only do stone frying pans prevent harmful chemicals getting into your food, these materials also minimize food sticking to your pans.
Although ensuring that your family is eating healthy food and developing good dietary habits may seem overwhelming, you are already taking the best first step: arming yourself with knowledge.