Winning children over to healthy eating

Give preference to healthy foods. Image: tutye/fotolia

How our children learn to eat? And how can we support them in developing healthy eating habits?? In this IN FORM post, you’ll learn what you can do to help your child grow up healthy.

Being a good role model

Eating is much more than just taking in food. It is also pleasure and joy. Eating behavior is shaped to a large extent at home. Especially in the first years of life, children orient themselves to their parents as well as to the people in the family environment. They learn primarily from observation. And this imprints itself much more than admonitions, proscriptions or prohibitions. It is therefore important to set a good example. When parents eat with variety and joy and have the courage to "try something new" to try, the children will imitate it.

Prefer healthy food

When people ask what they eat, they often talk about healthy foods. Ideally, these are natural and therefore not processed at all or only to a small extent. They contain no added vitamins or minerals, flavors, colors, preservatives or other additives.

May we also have something sweet?

Sweets do not provide a significant contribution to the nutrition of our body. But: they taste delicious and are hard to imagine everyday life for children without them. Therefore, it is important that children learn to deal with it consciously. Sweets are special and are only consumed in small amounts (no more than ten percent of daily energy intake). Clear rules, when and how much "sweet" eaten, help to control the snacking behavior of children. Nevertheless, a relaxed approach to the subject is recommended. Prohibitions only lead to ravenous appetite for the treats.

Table rules for all

Table rules avoid stress. Picture: Tonsickova/fotolia

Rules at the table give children security and avoid stress. They apply equally to children and adults, because learning is best with a role model. Eating is done at the table and not while walking or watching TV. If the meal is started with a table saying or a prayer, everyone can get in the mood for eating together. There are meal-free times between meals. It gives structure to the day and helps kids develop a sense of hunger and fullness. In addition to teaching table manners, such as not smacking, skills can be learned at the table. Praise when something works well. Reaction in case of non-compliance. Conflicts should be avoided at the dinner table.

Eating together

Eating together is fun! Children enjoy dining in a nice environment with familiar people. It also encourages them to try new things. According to a study, more than 80 percent of all children and teenagers value the family table as a place for conversation, coziness and relaxation. Another plus for the family table: children who learn from an early age how good home-cooked food tastes will be able to curb their desire for fast food even when they are older.

Opportunities in daycare centers and schools

According to a study, children’s diet also depends on the education and income of their parents. The higher they are, the healthier the eating pattern is. The aim is therefore to offer children of all social classes a healthy living environment, at least during their childcare and school hours. In addition to a healthy food offer in a nice atmosphere, daycare centers and schools have good opportunities to implement project-specific offers. Visits to the weekly market, joint baking activities or workshops on regional foods – these are just a few examples of how children can be introduced to healthy foods.

And what about the food industry?

The candy industry already has a lot of experience with how attractively designed food packaging can tempt children to eat unhealthy foods. The extent to which such marketing effects can be transferred to healthy foods was investigated in a study. You offered children three identical yogurt fruit cereal snacks. These were made according to the recommendations of the Research Institute of Child Nutrition and differed only in the packaging. The children reached for the snack with the attractive cartoon characters. This muesli also scored best in the taste test. There is a great opportunity here to use these marketing effects for healthy foods.

Here are a few more tips

Winning children over to healthy eating

What a little boy doesn’t learn, a little boy never learns. Image: detailblick_foto/fotolia

  • Create a good atmosphere. Eating with pleasure is the basis of successful food education.
  • Children should try everything but not be forced to eat it. Be patient and calm: Many foods a child has to taste 5 to 10 times before they taste them.
  • Children are explorers. If you include them in meal planning, purchasing and preparation, you will achieve a higher appreciation of food. Plan one children’s cooking day a week or tend an herb patch together. This arouses children’s curiosity and lets them discover healthy foods while having fun.
  • Children eat with all their senses. Beautiful table decorations, crunchy sounds when biting off, colorful finger food – make people aware of the sensual meaning of food. Use it to whet children’s appetites. Interesting to know: 70-80 percent of taste perception is based on smell.
  • Offer the vegetables sometimes cooked and sometimes raw as finger food (z. B. with a dip) to.
  • Always combine unfamiliar foods with familiar and beloved foods. Offer them in different variations.
  • A colorfully decorated snack box with the child’s name helps to regulate the consumption of sweets. Every day, the child may take a little something out of it.

Author: Yvonne Dommermuth, Koblenz, Germany

The energy contents of various sweets and snacks are listed on the FIT KID website.
One project idea for preschoolers is the IN FORM supporter project Vegetable Beds for Kids
Parents can make their contribution through active parenting. Tips and information can be found under "Macht Dampf – Fur gutes Essen in Kita und Schule".

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