Teaching your kids to eat healthy might feel like a losing battle.
These tips are brought to you by Quality Catering for Kids, and we're on your side, ready to support you and make it easy for you to teach your kids about nutritious food.
Your children see their friends wolfing down junk food like bags of empty-calorie chips, soft drinks loaded with sugar and calories, ice cream, and oversized hamburgers.
Then, they sit in front of the TV where commercials bombard them with marketing messages for unhealthy cereals that are coated with high-fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners. Those breakfast cereals offer little if any nutritional benefits.
Studies have shown that children are able to recall many of the commercials they see on TV, and they can even sing the songs! What they don't know is that bad eating habits can cause health problems like osteoporosis, childhood diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, allergies, obesity, bad teeth and gums, weak bones and even depression.
What can you do when kids cry, whine, nag, scream and cajole you to buy the junk food they want to eat? One of the best things you can do is to start teaching good eating habits early, when they are toddlers.
At a young age, involve your children in meal planning, shopping and food preparation. Give them a choice of two healthy vegetables and let them pick which one they want for lunch or dinner. Take them shopping with you and look for that vegetable in the supermarket. If they chose a big red pepper, let the child pick the pepper out of the bin and place it in the shopping cart. When you get home, they can help you wash it. You can handle the knife and cut the pepper into strips.
Another way to involve children is to teach two lessons at the same time: how to be a smart shopper and also eat healthy. Show them how to clip food coupons from newspapers and magazines, with an emphasis on nutritious foods that are high in fiber, low in fat and calories, and have a minimum of food additives and preservatives.
You might even have a favorite website where you can access cents-off coupons for tasty snacks for kids like fat-free yogurt and natural cheese. Many of the mommy blogs will give you lots of other ideas on where to find these coupons.
Ask your kids to help you look for healthy kid-tested recipes for nutritious sandwiches, hot vegetables, fresh salads loaded with fruits and vegetables they love, and high-fiber muffins and other snacks.
If your kids take their lunch to school, look for items you can make for healthy, low-fat and tasty bag lunches. Kids love turkey sandwiches on whole-grain bread, fresh fruit like Delicious Apples, and fresh vegetables like carrot sticks and broccoli with a low-cal dipping sauce.
Introduce children to foods that might be unfamiliar to them. Ask them to try a mango or guava. Explain to them the health benefits of kiwis, and show them our video on "Healthy Kids' Snack Ideas for Vitamin C" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBM06R1O58I.
This is an excellent educational video that will show them all the ways fruits like oranges, mangoes, fresh berries, cantaloupe and watermelon will make them strong and help ward off illness. You can also read to them lots of fun facts about various types of fruits that are rich in Vitamin C, which you'll find in the description below the video.
Ask them if they want any of those foods in their bag lunch or as a healthy after-school snack. Keep washed, ready-to-grab fruits and vegetables in a handy location, like the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, so they can eat them whenever they're hungry.
Another way to teach children about healthy eating is to take them to the library and look at books about childhood nutrition. Take the books home and read them. Keep asking your children to suggest foods they want to try.
If your children like to color, introduce them to our "Healthy Heroes" at our website at http://qualitycateringforkids.com/kids.php.
They can meet Abraham Apple, Bridget Banana, Owen Orange, Priscilla Pear, Carol Carrot, Ben Broccoli and others. Each "hero" offers a short explanation of what makes them such a nutritious food choice for children. Ask your kids to choose their favorite hero and draw a picture.
Your kids might also like our Nutrition Education Lesson Plan Stories at http://qualitycateringforkids.com/lessons.php.
Our registered Dietetic Technician approved them, and even though we suggest that teachers use them, parents can too. Each of the 12 stories takes about five minutes. The stories will make it easy for you to help your kids develop lifelong healthy eating habits.
P.S. We cater more than 15,000 nutritious breakfasts, hot lunches and sack lunches each year for day care centers and pre-schools in northern Illinois and southeast Wisconsin. So we know what kinds of foods kids love!