When it comes to the well being of our children, we all want the same thing - happy healthy little humans. Yet in today’s world of fast food and too easily accessible sugary snacks, it is very easy to develop unhealthy eating habits. This is such a serious issue that legendary chef Jamie Oliver has made it his own personal mission to encourage and teach young children about healthy eating. And as it true with many factors of parenting, most of the hard work begins at home.
Let them be involved
When children are involved in all aspects of a meal (from preparing right down to eating), they are more likely to eat. Taking them grocery shopping may not be the fastest way to do a weekly shop, but think of it as a long term investment. Toddlers can even make their own grocery list, and practice with the foods they have in their toy kitchen. Letting children be involved in meal planning and cooking means they see the food, and when it comes to eating it, will have a sense of achievement and ownership knowing they peeled a particular vegetable, or picked out a particular ingredient in the supermarket. And if you’re not quite ready, or are short on time during the week, find simple no-bake recipes which are often fun and quick to make together.
Give them a chance to make healthy choices
Having healthy snacks readily available is often overlooked. Rather than filling the cupboards with sugary foods or snacks which are high in salt, be sure to stock up the fridge with fruit. In fact, having small baskets of fruit around the house will allow them to see what’s available. Consider when your child is most hungry - if it’s in the car on the way from school to an afternoon activity, have healthy snacks ready in the car which could include apple slices, carrot sticks, or healthy homemade oat muffins. It’s no secret that children can be fussy eaters - for them, the visual input is a huge factor in deciding whether or not they will try something. So get your creative juices at the ready (or simply Google fun ways to cut fruit and vegetables!).
Eat as a family
Family meals are an important part of healthy eating as they offer a ritual for the entire family (both parents and children alike). It gives children a sense of routine; they are aware and can anticipate what is expected of them and the activities that revolve around a meal such as getting the food to the table, sitting down for the entire meal, talking as a family, and then cleaning up. Additionally, studies
have shown that children who regularly take part in family meals are more likely to eat fruit, vegetables and even receive a boost in their vocabulary as a result of having adults conversing around the table.
Practise makes perfect
Other than the developmental benefits of having a toy kitchen, it is undoubtedly one of the best (if not, the best) tools to encourage and help children be involved in the world of food. Whether it’s pretend grocery shopping, or ‘cooking’ a full meal, a toy kitchen provides children with an opportunity to practise a variety of transferable skills and take part in an essential everyday activity which will inevitably make way for healthy eating.