As parents, we all want the best for our kids – that means ensuring they adopt a healthy lifestyle. Balanced nutrition is of course a critical aspect of a healthy lifestyle, so it’s important to teach children from an early age how important it is to follow a healthy diet.
We’re sharing a few tips and tricks for parents looking to nudge their children toward a healthier lifestyle.
1. Eat as a family
If you’re looking to set your family on a healthy course, then bringing everyone together around the dinner table for a healthy meal is the way to go.
Family dinners are not only an opportunity to get caught up on everyone’s lives, it’s also a chance for parents to reinforce healthy eating messages. Make the dinner table a distraction-free place – ask everyone to leave their screens and toys behind. This will ensure that children focus on the taste and flavors of their food, while allowing them to listen to their body to know if they’re hungry or full.
Stick to a routine as much as you can – research shows that keeping regular hours for meals helps the family develop consistent eating patterns, and ultimately helps cement healthier habits.
2. Get your kids involved
Involving your children in the preparation and cooking of meals does not only keep children busy – it is also a great springboard to teach them about the importance of good nutrition.
For instance, you can enlist your kids' help to develop a meal plan for the week incorporating healthy ingredients. Before heading to the store, have your kids help you draw up a shopping list. You can introduce games to make the process more fun – drawing the food that you intend to buy and getting your kids to guess, Pictionary-style, or announcing the dish you want to cook and having them come up with the list of ingredients needed.
You can also of course ask your kids to tag along when shopping for groceries, or get them involved in the kitchen – each of these moments provides an opportunity for them to learn about where produce come from, how they are grown, and what their associated benefits are.
3. Keep a stash of healthy snacks
Everybody loves a snack – so it’s important that these snacks be healthy. Make sure that you keep a stash of healthy snacks in the cupboard or in the refrigerator.
All forms of fruits and veggies are great as snacks. Keep your freezer stocked with frozen fruit ready for making smoothies, and, if you’re on the go, have portions of dried fruit and nuts ready to take with you.
You can also stock fresh veggies in snack-ready form like carrot sticks, celery sticks and cucumber slices, and keep portable whole fruits that your kids enjoy like bananas, apples, oranges or grapes. By providing healthy snacks, your child will get used to choosing healthier foods when they're on their own.
4. Mind portion sizes
Preparing meals and snacks packed full of healthy ingredients is great – but making sure your kids eat the right amount is just as important. Children need different portion sizes, depending on their stage of growth and development, so it is important to pay attention to the size of the portions you serve.
As a general principle, meals should contain a large part of vegetables, a portion of protein foods (meat, eggs, fish, lentils or beans) and a portion of either wholewheat pasta, brown rice, or potatoes (leave their skins on for more fibre). Schemes like MyPlate in the US, the EatWell Guide in the UK, or our very own Nutriplato initiative in Spain, help to visualize how much food from each food group we should aim to eat overall.
5. Parents as role models
Meals at home are not only great because they bring the family together – they also provided an opportunity for parents to put into practice what they preach. Children take notice of what their parents do, so parents should lead by example and ensure that they eat as balanced a meal as possible, with plenty of vegetables, grains and fruits.
Children need all the help they can get to embrace the healthy, balanced lifestyle they need to thrive.
Read more about Nestlé for Healthier Kids, our flagship initiative to help future generations eat better foods and beverages, and to move more. The program aims to help 50 million children lead healthier lives by 2030.