The biggest difficulties that you’ll face while parenting young children are likely to revolve around sleeping and eating.
The first few years of a child’s life are vital when it comes to ensuring good nutrition and the development of healthy eating habits. Many of the habits we have as adults originated from our childhood.
The problem that most parents face, who are struggling with fussy kids and toddlers, is that they find themselves in survival mode. They’re not able to be proactive about their child’s diet, they are simply surviving, day in, day out. They feed their kids food they know they’ll eat, they make multiple meals for different family members, they rely on convenience foods and takeaway and have no time, energy or motivation to go about improving their child’s eating habits.
I would like to inspire all parents today, who are stuck in survival mode and that are struggling with fussy toddlers or kids that you can get out of the rut! All you have to do is give yourself a few minutes to sit down and decide on the type of kids that you want to raise. Get back on the front foot with your children’s eating habits and start to pave the way. Healthy eating is a skill that must be taught. They’ve got to learn it from us.
If you’re a little bit unsure as to where to start, here are the four ‘P’s (according to me) for raising healthy kids and toddlers:
Planning is so important, you mustn’t underestimate it. Organization is truly the key to consistent healthy eating and unless you have a personal chef who cooks for you, you’ll find it difficult to develop healthy eating habits for your family if you’re not prepared.
You must plan to put healthy food on the table or it just won’t happen. Simple as that. The planning ‘P’ involves two sides:
1. The first side is planning to start the process of being proactive about raising healthy eaters. How are you going to set the food rules in your house? How are you going to stick to them? How are you going to reward good food choices? What new foods will you introduce this week? What new meals are you going to cook? All these things need to be worked out before you start. Doing it on the fly is never a good idea.
2. The second side of this ‘P’ is involving your kids in the planning process. Kid’s and toddlers can be hesitant to try new foods, simply due to fear of the unknown. It’s really good for them to be apart of the whole process of food preparation, planning included. Kids also like to know they have control over a situation. Being involved in the meal planning can help them feel valued as a member of the family and confident that they’re in control. Maybe get each of your kids to help you choose one meal per week. Encourage them to choose something that’s nutritious and has a good amount of vegetables. If you have older kids, let them flick through a cookbook and pick a new recipe to try.
This is the fun part! Take your kids shopping with you!
This process can be a little lost on under 3 year olds but over this age you can make it a really fun, educational experience. You don’t have to do it every week but taking them semi-regularly will be an opportunity to teach them about food.
Make it an activity to do together… call it ‘market day’. Market day is an exercise purely for the kids and teaching them about food. Give them each a basket and set aside $20-$30 or so to spend from your budget and let them go nuts in the fruit and veg section at the store. The instructions are for them to buy any fruit and vegetables they want. Give them a little guidance (so they don’t choose 25 onions) but otherwise leave it totally up to them. Then take the food home, cook it and eat it together. It’s a valuable experience for them to learn about food, where it comes from and how tp purchase it.
Getting your kids involved in food preparation is a really important part of the process. It’s one of the ways we eliminate fear of the unknown. When they see how the food was prepared and if they were able to be a part of it, they are more likely to partake of the meal when it’s put in front of them.
The amount that your kids can be involved in food preparation will depend on their age.
You don’t have to do this every night, but 1-2 times per week is plenty. Quality over quantity is the key! You never know, but the time they’re 15 they might be cooking dinner for you 1-2 per week! Bonus!
The 4th and final ‘P’ – partaking. There are a number of important aspects of meal times that encourage good eating habits. They are:
- Create one meal for the whole family – kids are more likely to eat and try new foods if its the same as what you’re eating. Research tells us that kids need to see their parents and EAT and ENJOY food for them to feel confident in eating it themselves. You are a critical role model. Don’t underestimate the importance of family meal times. Prioritise it.
- Follow this great food policy in your home: You decide what and when your child eats and your child decides what and how much they eat off the plate that you gave them.
- Keep it distraction free – turn off the TV, put away your smart phone or tablet devise. Make an occasion out of it. Talk, enjoy and above all don’t stress. Some meals your kids will eat and some they won’t. This is completely normal. Be consistent with your household food rules and it will pay off in the long run.