Modeling Good Eating Habits

Believe it or not, parents have an incredible impact on their children’s eating habits. On the average day, when you are trying to convince your child to at least try the spinach, it certainly doesn’t feel like you have any influence at all. But the truth is, your child is always watching you, and takes most of his cues for behavior from what he sees you doing on a daily basis.

Just as your child will repeat the things you say, or imitate the little things you do from brushing your hair to putting your feet up on the coffee table, so too does he watch the way you eat – and more importantly, what you eat.

If You Won’t Eat It, Your Kids Won’t Eat It

This should be the golden rule of healthy eating for families, and yet many parents still believe they can convince their children to voluntarily eat a food they themselves refuse to eat. Do as I say, not as I do doesn’t really work in any aspect of parenting, and it certainly doesn’t work with food. You won’t be able to convince your child that healthy foods are tasty unless you are willing to put them in your own mouth.

Actions speak much, much louder than words when it comes to eating habits. All of the explanations in the world about how healthy, delicious and fun to eat broccoli is won’t hold a candle to your child seeing you eat it and enjoy it.

Consistency is the Key

As with so many things in parenting, consistency is vital to making a real impression on your child. You can’t just eat good food one day and then go back your old habits while expecting your child to carry on with good eating habits. If you want to make healthy eating a lifelong habit for your child, it has to also be a lifelong habit for you.

This doesn’t mean there is no room for treats – pizza night and ice cream can also be a part of your routine, as long as they don’t actually become the routine. Explaining to your child that these foods are ok to have now and then, but not all the time will work a whole lot better if you stand by what you are saying. You can’t change the rules all the time, or have one set of rules for the parents and another set for the kids if you want your kids to truly accept healthy eating as a way of life.

They’re Listening, Too

Just eating the right foods isn’t enough if you are also complaining about it. If you eat your peas while discussing with your spouse how you really don’t like them, your kids will hear you. Instead, try making comments about how flavorful or fresh the food is, or how perfectly it goes with the chicken. Sometimes just hearing you say how good a food is might be enough to make your child give it a try.

Don’t go over the top or offer exaggerated “yum!” and “mmmmmm!” sounds. Just keep it a part of the conversation, and let your child overhear you. Before you know it, she might be willing to taste a bite.

You are the number one influence on your child’s eating habits, so remember it every time you sit down to eat. If you model healthy eating habits, your child will be far more likely to develop them too.

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