With a higher frequency of meals purchased on the go, and cooked outside of the home, it is becoming important to keep an eye on our nutrtional intake, especially that of our children. To make a few simple changes to improve your children’s and family’s experience with food, Dr Muireann Cullen from the Nutrition and Health Foundation explains how you can improve nutrition for your entire family, with these 10 simple steps.
This list is by no means extensive, or exclusive. There are many other ways that you can help your child develop healthy eating habits that will stick with them as they continue to grow up. Just be sure to set a proper example for your children by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising daily. By following just a few of these NHF tips, you’ll be on your way to improving the diet of your family, as well as your own.
1. Have Family Dinners Together(even if it is once or twice per week)
Spending time as a family during dinner time has been proven to decrease the likelihood of substance abuse, drinking, and smoking among teenagers, and also helps keep parents informed of what outside extracurricular activities kids are engaged in, as well as happenings at the children’s school.
2. Get your Kids Eating Fresh Fruit & Veg from an Early Age.
When feeding them as an infant, try feeding them first foods made from vegetables such as peas or carrots instead of those that are made from fruit. Keep the sweeter foods such as applesauce as a treat every so often. This way, your child will become accustomed to the taste of vegetables as an infant, and be more likely to eat them for you as they grow up.
3. Involve your Children in Shopping and Preparing Meals.
When kids have helped in some way with shopping and then making dinner, they are more likely to enjoy the meal, and eat their fruits and vegetables.
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4. Allow your Children to Stop Eating when they say they are Full.
It is best not to force them to eat when they say they are not hungry. If their lack of appetite becomes a concern to you, consult your doctor or dietitian.
5. Try Find Healthier Options for your Kids when Eating Out.
If you are not happy with what is being offered on the children’s menu, see if you can make substitutions or share an adult plate between two kids.
6. Encourage your Kids Outside to Play.
You can even try and find inventive ways to involve the whole family in physical activity. It is important that kids get at least 60 minutes of exercise per day, and it is suggested that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily. Get the entire family active together by playing a match of soccer, or even playing Frisbee.
7. Don’t have Family dinner in front of the TV.
Eating while watching TV keeps you distracted, and can actually lead you to eat more than you would if you were eating at the dining table. Finding time away from the television and sitting down to dinner not only promotes healthier eating habits, but healthy conversation as well.
8. Allow your Child Special Treats.
It is best not to prevent your children from eating treats altogether. Instead, allow them smaller, appropriate portions.
Set a good example for your children: You should not expect that your children will adopt proper eating habits if you yourself are not a proper role model. The majority of habits picked up by children come from their parents: if you incorporate a healthy diet and exercise regime into your lifestyle, your kids will be more inclined to do the same.
9. Limit the Amount of added Salt in your Diet.
Excess salt has been linked to high blood pressure amongst other health issues. Try and minimise the amount of salt you add to foods by using natural salt-free additives like herbs, garlic, and spices.
10. Eat Breakfast Every Day.
Especially for school age children, breakfast is often one of the most important meals of the day. It helps to keep them focused in school, jump starts their metabolism and starts the day off the right way.
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The Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF) provides information on diet and exercise for the promotion of a healthy Ireland. Their mission is to communicate evidence based information on nutrition, health and physical activity to encourage an improved and healthier society in Ireland.
Do you eat your meals together as a family? Do you involve your kids in meal preparation? Share your thoughts in the comments box below