It’s not easy being a parent but worrying about your child’s future health shouldn’t be an additional source of stress. Teaching your child to make healthy food choices can be simple. Simply follow these simple suggestions and get your child on the path toward healthy adulthood. Remember, your children will probably resist what you are teaching them now, however, the lessons they learn today will linger in their minds and revisit them in the future.
Cooking: Children who grow up without learning how to cook often depend on take out and dining out. This means their diet includes ingredients they do not have control over. They are also hesitant about making meals at home for fear they’ll fail or “mess things up”. From an early age you can use developmentally appropriate teaching techniques and even games to teach your children how to prepare basic foods, how to plan and prepare quick meals and the basic nutrition composition of a healthy meal. Cooking does not have to be complicated and as a parent you can demystify the cooking process for your children starting from an early age.
Adventure: Children are more open to adventure and risk than adults, as a parent, you want to capitalize on that. While you must exercise caution when enlisting the help of your child in the kitchen, encourage them to make mistakes and make a mess. Then, use those mistakes to teach them to try again and succeed in the kitchen. This helps your child become comfortable and confident around unfamiliar appliances, knives and other utensils and of course new ingredients. When possible, act as “supervisor” during cooking and offer them step by step verbal directions while allowing them to make the entire meal without your actual involvement.
Culinary Diversity: Exposing your children to a variety of ingredients and flavors can feel as difficult and frustrating as trying to hike up the Grand Canyon. But like hiking the Canyon, you want to pace yourself and think long term. Take small and strategic steps toward teaching your children to develop an open palate and whatever you do, don’t give up and let them decide what they will eat. The key to teaching a child (or adult) to be open to new foods is to allow time to learn to like the new item. For example, if you want to introduce kale to your child’s menu start by making it with something your child already likes, say bacon, or making baked kale chips. Keep kale in your menus for about 2-3 weeks, serving it a couple of times a week. When it comes to learning to enjoy a new food repetition and familiarity are key for children and adults alike.
Re-training or preventing the obesity gene from continuing to thrive in your family does not have to be an arduous, painstaking task. It does require consistency, planning and education. Think of nutrition as you would a language. As a Latino you want your child to grow up to be bilingual and achieve fluency in English and Spanish. As with language, the earlier you teach your child to appreciate and crave a healthy lifestyle, the more successful she’ll be at rejecting fast food and unhealthy menus as an adult.