Whether you have a toddler or a teen, here are five of the best strategies to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits:
1. Have regular family meals.
2. Serve a variety of healthy foods and snacks.
3. Be a role model by eating healthy yourself.
4. Avoid battles over food.
5. Involve kids in the process.
But it's not easy when everyone is juggling busy schedules and convenience food, such as fast food, is so readily available.
Here are some ways to incorporate all five strategies into your routine.
Family meals are a comforting ritual for both parents and kids. Children like the predictability of family meals and parents get a chance to catch up with their kids. Kids who take part in regular family meals are also:
more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and grains
less likely to snack on unhealthy foods
less likely to smoke, use marijuana, or drink alcohol
In addition, family meals offer the chance to introduce kids to new foods and to act as a role model for healthy eating.
Teens may turn up their noses at the prospect of a family meal — not surprising because they're busy and want to be more independent. Yet studies find that teens still want their parents' advice and counsel, so use mealtime as a chance to reconnect. Also, consider trying these strategies:
Allow your teen to invite a friend to dinner.
Involve your teen in meal planning and preparation.
Keep mealtime calm and congenial — no lectures or arguing.
What counts as a family meal? Any time you and your family eat together — whether it's takeout food or a home-cooked meal with all the trimmings. Strive for nutritious food and a time when everyone can be there. This may mean eating dinner a little later to accommodate a child who's at sports practice. It can also mean setting aside time on the weekends, such as Sunday brunch, when it may be more convenient to gather as a group.ََ