Teaching Your Kids to Eat Healthy For School Success
Article by: Michelle Eisen for OurKids.net, Canada’s trusted source for camps and schools.
Teaching children healthy eating habits can not only help them maintain a healthy weight and normal growth for their age, it can also have a dramatic effect on their cognitive growth and help them do better in school too!
Children require healthy food to concentrate, to develop and maintain self-regulation, to have full function of their short and long-term memory, and to ensure proper cognitive and behavioural functioning necessary for academic achievement.
Consuming refined sugar allows for a short spike in alertness, followed by a drop in energy and concentration. Providing your children with balanced and healthy meals will allow them to stay focused and alert in school throughout the day. Many parents express challenges in providing healthy meals for their children from lacking cooking skills, to their child refusing to eat vegetables. Luckily, there are quick and easy solutions to many of the challenges you may be facing in your quest to providing healthy options for your child.
Five easy ways to break down the roadblocks to healthy eating:
- 1. Involve the kids—Children love to learn. What better life lesson to teach, than how to shop and cook with health in mind. As you make your way through the produce aisles, ask your child what fruits and vegetables look interesting to him. Perhaps he is excited by the vibrant colours of a dragon fruit, or the interesting shapes of a squash. Don’t be afraid to purchase new types of foods. By bringing home and eating the produce that spikes your child’s interest, you are promoting his excitement about eating fresh and healthy food! Even better, have your child help prepare the foods that he has chosen. There are many great websites such as The World’s Healthiest Foods (www.whfoods.org), devoted to providing easy-to-follow recipes for each type of fruit and vegetable. Cooking is a great way to increase your child’s self-efficacy in working with different foods in the kitchen—increasing the likelihood that he will cook healthy meals for himself later on in life.
- 2. It’s all about the presentation—Believe it or not, we begin eating with our eyes at a very young age. When we think about children’s favourite candies, they are often bright, vibrant colours. A neatly presented, colourful plate of food will entice your youngster to dig in!
- 3. Hide the vegetables—Through my research, I have found that the older the child, the more stubborn he becomes towards changing his eating habits—this stubbornness brings us right into adulthood. How did I get a group of 16-20 year olds to try new vegetables? I hid them. Purchasing a good-quality juicer is a great investment which will cost you between $100—$180. Juicing allows for easy consumption of micronutrients; and when paired with flavourful fruits, the presence of vegetables can be masked. Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower can all be concealed by pairing them with the right fruits! Visit www.FeedingTheNeedToSucceed.blogspot.com for effective vegetable-concealing recipes.
- 4. You can’t eat what’s not there—When children are hungry, most opt for the snacks rich in salt, processed flour, and sugar, such as chips, chocolate, donuts, cookies with icing, etc. By keeping these types of foods out of the home, you have installed a foolproof, prevention plan. Without these foods in the house, parents do not have to feel guilty for caving in to their child’s sugary wants, and children will feel more compelled to reach for a fruit or vegetable for a day-time snack.
Did you know? It is actually possible to train your child’s taste buds. As in sports or learning to play an instrument, it is much easier to train at a young age. Children as well as adults learn to crave the foods they are used to eating, which is why it is so difficult for a child used to a diet low in vegetables, to become accustomed to eating vegetables on a daily basis. With persistence, however, taste buds can be retrained. Allowing children the opportunity to relate eating healthy to feeling great through personal experience, will provide them with a hunger for nutritious food.
- 5. Read the label—When deciding on which juice, granola bar, cereal, or any other pre-packaged food to buy, it is important to read the label. Ingredients are listed from most to least abundant. If you are finding any form of sugar within the first three listed ingredients, there is a much healthier option out there—keep looking. There are a few other tips for reading labels parents should keep in mind. Keep an eye on sodium levels. Depending on their ages, children should not consume more than 1200 mg of sodium per day. Avoid foods with artificial sweeteners, including sucralose and aspartame, as studies have shown that they may not be safe for brain-development in children.
As schools play a crucial role in the development of your child, encourage your school to provide nutrition workshops for their students, as Appleby College’s nutritionist, Norine Khalil, provided for hers.
Just as you teach your child to be polite, and responsible, teach your child to love healthy foods and all of the benefits that go with it. Together, you can enjoy learning and feeling your best.
For free advice on healthy eating, EatRight Ontario provides free consultation from Registered Dieticians. Visit their website at Ontario.ca/eatright or talk to a registered dietician for free at 1-877-510-5102.
For more information on how you can provide your child with healthy options, contact Michelle Eisen at [email protected].
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