Parents have the unique responsibility of ensuring that their children’s nutritious needs are met.  Unfortunately, the prevalence of fast food establishments has made it easy to ignore the nutritious needs of our children.

Use Visual Representations

Throughout the years, the various methods have been used to try to remind families of the importance of nutrition.  In the United States, this is commonly done by using graphics to represent the types of food that should be consumed.  The newest model for healthy eating is the Healthy Plate.  Parents can use the Healthy Plate to help their children learn to eat nutritiously.

 While some visual representations, like the food pyramid were not easy for young children to understand, the Healthy Plate is easy for even a little child to understand.  Since young children are visual learners, you can draw lines on their plate to represent each food group.  If you are the creative type, you might want to make a placemat that looks like the MyPlate icon.

They Are Watching You

One of the most important things to know when you are a parent is that your child is watching you and your food selections.  This definitely is not the area to apply that do as I say not as I do mentality.  Children mimic the behavior of their parents.  They learn your habits by watching you.  I know some parents that try to make healthy choices at mealtime.  However, I think it is important to emphasize that children are watching you all of the time. If you make poor choices for snacks, they will also make poor choices for snacks.   

Don’t Offer Poor Choices

Just like adults, children like options that taste good.  Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of giving their children sugar and other sweets as rewards.  While children may love the initial reward, the mistake that is made is that they begin to associate sweets with a positive feeling.  They begin to think that they deserve the sweets when they are done.

Involve Your Children

One of the best ways to get your child to practice a nutritious lifestyle is by allowing them to help plan and prepare the menu.  Set aside a specific day during the week that allows your child to plan the meal.  If your child is old enough to go shopping, allow the child to buy the items fromt eh grocery store.  When you fix the meal make sure to allow your child to complete tasks that are appropriate for their age and understanding.  It is amazing how much children enjoy thefood that they cook.

Buy Fresh Food

Children learn about the food cultivation process while in school and develop a curiousity about food.  If you have the opportunity to buy food from a Farmer’s Market or something similar, you should take the opportunity to do that.  You should also bring your child with you to demonstrate how to pick out produce.

Blend It

If you have a picky eater, one of the best things that you can do is hide the healthy items in food that your child loves.  There are a few cookbooks that will help you do this, but one of my favorite is Deceptively Delicious.  I must admit, that some of these recipes have helped me fool some of my adult friends that don’t like to eat vegetables.