If your kids had a choice, when it comes time to grab a snack, would they pick ice cream or an apple? Ice cream, of course! That’s a pretty typical reaction for kids and adults alike, and there is definitely nothing wrong with treats now and then. But, with the rate of obesity in the United States rising to higher levels than ever before, there is no time better to talk to your kids about nutrition. In fact, the rate of child obesity has risen to alarming levels in recent years, prompting lawmakers, school officials and even the First Lady to step in and advocate for the importance of nutrient-rich diets for young people. So, how can you talk to your kids about nutrition in a way that they will understand and adhere to?
First, you have to convey to them what nutrition is and why it’s so important. Try to steer clear of the word “nutrition” because your kids may start to tune you out at the first sign of adult-style jargon. In fact, you may not need to sit your kids down to have a formal talk about the matter at all. Instead, try integrating awareness about nutrition into your family’s daily life and talk to your kids about it in a natural way.
To convey the importance of nutrition to your kids, you can point out foods that are yummy and healthy for your body while you’re cooking or shopping in the grocery store. Tell your kids that fruits and vegetables are some of your favorite things to eat (hopefully, they are!) and tell them that, if you want to grow up strong and healthy, fruits and veggies will help. You can also explain to your kids that you really are what you eat. If you don’t eat enough, you will be too small to be healthy. And, if you eat too much, or eat too many bad things, you will be too big to be healthy.
Drive the importance of nutrition home by giving your kids examples of things that are not healthy to eat. Explain to them the difference between food and a treat. A spaghetti dinner or a turkey sandwich would be considered food. A can of Pringles or a trip to McDonalds would be considered a treat. You can explain to your kids that, sure, those types of foods may fill you up, but they don’t have any of the nutrients that your body needs, so they don’t count as real food for your family. But it’s okay to eat them once in a while for fun.
If your kids have idols they look up to who also have healthy bodies, you can reference those celebrities when you talk about healthy eating and let your kids know that their idols try to eat healthy, too. You can also point out celebrities who are not making good health decisions, and let the kids make their own connections.
Finally, make nutrition a fun thing in your household. In fact, try to make it nothing at all. If you integrate good nutrition into your entire life, your kids will naturally gravitate toward healthier foods, because that will be the only things available. Have fun with your kids by trying new fruits, making homemade juice, or trying new healthy recipes.
There are so many ways to introduce good nutrition habits to your children, but the best way to go about it is to always practice what you preach.
Do you have any good tips on how to talk to children about nutrition?
About the Author: This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey. She welcomes your comments at her email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Drinking Milk by Stuart Miles and Holding Carrots by Clare Bloomfield.