3 Steps to Raising Food-Smart Kids

Mother cutting her daughter's food
Marc Romanelli/Getty Images

In this world of food saturation, kids are bombarded with advertisements, images, and billboards covered with unhealthy, high fat and sodium processed food (if we can even still call it food). So how is it that we’re supposed to raise healthy kids in this toxic food environment?

It starts with you. It starts at home. But before you get too anxious and worried that you’ve failed your kids and they’re bound for obesity and poor health (I’m a parent, and I’ve been down that rabbit hole before), remember that you’re the parent and you’re in charge.

You can make healthy changes for your family! 

Where Do You Stand?

Here are a few questions to help you assess where you stand:

  • Are you trying to add more fruits and veggies to your everyday routine?
  • Are you eating dinners as a family?
  • Are your kids open to trying new foods?
  • Do your kids like active play?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re on the right track. Parenting is hard and adding in the pressures of our health-focused yet bad-habit filled society makes it even harder. So let’s talk through some strategies to give you the confidence and tools you need to help your kids grow up healthy, happy, and ready to be healthy adults.

Consider Your Family Culture

Have you ever thought through your own family’s culture? What things does your family value? What do you like to do together? Do your traditions center around high-calorie foods or active events?

If your family culture could use a nudge in a healthier direction, start by adding in small things like family walks after dinner or a family date night to the ice rink or soccer field.

Find ways that you can be active as a family. You’ll create memories and good feelings around healthy habits and in turn your kids will remember these and want to add them into their own adult lives.

Just a quick word for the wise: don’t start with the long hike through the woods or the bootcamp workout.

Find something active your family can enjoy together, whether that looks like a walk around the neighborhood or a kitchen dance party!

Develop a Healthy Relationship With Food

An active, healthy family culture goes a long way, but helping your kids develop a healthy relationship with food is important, too. Here are a few things to work on to help your kids develop positive food habits:

  • Stick to set meal and snack times—free grazing can lead to overeating and lack of hunger at meal times.
  • Stock your snack drawer and fridge with healthy foods—think fruits and veggies ready to snack on
  • Talk about food as fuel rather than reward or comfort.
  • Model good eating habits. Actions speak louder than words.
  • Help kids understand hunger and fullness cues.

Give Them a Chance to Fail

Last but not least, don't be scared to let your kids fail. This last one sounds counter-intuitive; however, we need to let our kids make their own choices. If we dictate all of their healthy choices we will end up sending them out into the real world unprepared.

If we give them a chance to make bad food choices, we will be there to help them think through their choice and consequence, which is where real learning happens.

We’ve all heard of the kid who was raised in a no-sugar, no-TV, no-processed food household—send him off to college and he’s living off of frozen pizza and soda. When we let our kids be involved in the process and give them learning experiences along the way, we can send them out into the world ready to make choices that will help them lead their own healthy lifestyle.

So what’s next? Start by evaluating your family culture and family food attitudes, then involve your kids to help make a few small changes. Chances are that when you work together you’ll end up with a better solution and kids who are ready to make their own healthy choices!

Continue Reading