What we feed our children has a huge effect on their physical, mental, and emotional health, yet getting them to eat healthily is one of the biggest challenges of parenthood.
According to a study carried out by Vitabiotics’ Wellteen, more than half of UK parents are frequently battling with their children at the dinner table. A large number have even reported their kids ‘sneaky snacking’, with illicit sweet and junk food wrappers being hidden in their bedrooms.
This struggle is felt widely amongst mums and dads nationwide, with 1 in 5 parents admitting they have “lost control” of their offspring by the age of 13. After years of watching their every move, mums and dads are left wondering what their offspring are eating, doing and who they are friends with after they start secondary school and begin to make their own way in the world.
Top tips for encouraging your child to eat healthily
There are a number of tips and tricks out there for parents encouraging healthy eating (or just encouraging eating in general), but there are some which stand out as timeless and effective, often with minimal effort. Consistency is key – children and teenagers actually need it to build patterns of behaviour around, so regardless of your method, do it confidently and consistently.
Don’t label food as “good” and “bad”
Telling your child something is bad can actually have the opposite effect of what you’re aiming for, as they will see it as a form of forbidden fruit. Instead, make ice cream, fast food or sweets a conditional treat which can be given as a reward for eating main meals.
The same goes for healthy food, telling them they should eat it because it’s “good” for them is ridden with obligation and will ultimately have a negative result. Without labels, they will naturally pick and choose what they like and what they don’t – you might be surprised at some of the stuff they DO like.
Make a schedule
One thing kids need as much as consistency is a schedule, as this means they have a predictable pattern to rely on. It’s human nature to form patterns as it gives us a sense of familiarity and safeness – this is even more of a need earlier in life! Additionally, children need to eat every three to four hours, including snacks and plenty of fluids.
Making sure this is the same time every day will get them into a good routine and they’ll be less cranky, as well as healthier. Vitamins for kids can also be implemented as part of a daily routine, which can have a really positive effect on a child’s health.
Let them cook!
Even the older kids (and teens!) enjoy getting stuck in, when in the kitchen, as it makes them feel responsible as well as giving them an opportunity to be creative. This can be a fun activity as well as educational, as they’ll learn how to use healthy food to make meals they enjoy.
Letting them make their own choices (within reason, gummy bear pizzas aren’t really recommended) gives them a sense of freedom, and they’ll almost certainly eat something that they created and that they’re proud of.
A spokesperson for Wellteen vitamins, said: “With a bigger range of snacks to choose from, it is no surprise many parents think their offspring are indulging in more junk food than they did at the same age.
“When our children are young, it’s easy to know exactly what they are doing, who they are with and what they are having to eat and drink.
“Even when they start school and nursery, you still get a good idea of what they are doing from teachers and notes sent home.
“But as they get older and start to do things on their own, it can be harder to keep such a close eye on them, especially when it comes to their diet. As they travel to school by themselves or head out unaccompanied with friends, they have the opportunity to eat and drink foods they know they wouldn’t usually be allowed at home.”