As pediatric dentists, we understand the important role that healthy eating can play in strong dental and oral health. This is especially true for children. Because encouraging children to eat nutritious and teeth-friendly foods can be difficult, here is a look at ways that you can promote healthy eating in the home.
Get them involved.
Your kids are a lot more likely to try the healthy foods you buy when they feel involved in the buying of said foods. Ask your child to help you plan meals, take them grocery shopping with you, let them help prepare food as appropriate, etc. Start by letting your child make simple purchasing decisions (apples or bananas? 1% or 2% milk?) and by trying simple recipes at home (yogurt popsicles, fruit salad, etc.)
Put healthy snacks within reach.
Many kids enjoy eating a tasty snack after school. To help encourage your children to eat better, be mindful about which snacks you keep handy and which snacks you keep within the reach of small hands. You might, for example, keep fresh fruits and vegetables readily available in the fridge for your kids to grab—without having to ask for permission. Meanwhile, you may choose to keep a few less healthy treats on hand as well; only these treats out of reach, and your children must ask for permission before they can have one.
Serve healthy appetizers before dinner.
Are you having trouble getting your kids to try fresh vegetables or fruit? Try putting together a platter of healthy “appetizers” for your kids to enjoy at the start of dinner. Serve this first at the dinner table—before anything else gets put out—to encourage hungry kids to snack on them first.
Go on fun family outings.
Try taking your children on a fun outing that is centered around healthy foods. Take a trip to a local farmer’s market and let them pick out the foods that look the most delicious to them. Or, try going to an apple orchard or berry picking farm and picking your own produce together. You could even try planting fresh produce in your own backyard. Your kids will likely grow to love healthy foods more when they can associate them with fun family outings. As an added bonus, this is a family outing that doesn’t have to break the bank, as it involves spending money that you would be spending on groceries anyhow.
Be a positive example.
Of course, one of the most powerful ways you can influence your child’s eating habits is by example. Make it a point to order healthier foods at restaurants and to enjoy healthy snacks even when it is only you eating.