Just putting healthy foods in front of your child isn’t necessarily enough to really instill healthy eating habits for a lifetime. One of the biggest problems in teaching your child how to eat right for good health is that we as parents don’t always practice what we preach. The best way to teach healthy eating habits is to demonstrate them.
Kids are Watching
You may think that your older baby or toddler doesn’t notice what you eat, but you are very wrong. From the time your baby becomes aware of what is going on at the table and wants to be a part of it, you are the example being set for everything from how to use a fork to how to chew with your mouth closed.
As your baby grows, he will notice more and more what you are eating and how it differs from what he is being served. If you have ever had a baby reach for what was on your plate while ignoring the food on his own, then you know that babies just want to try what everyone else is having. It should be obvious, therefore, that your baby will notice if there are no greens on your plate or if you are not eating your carrots.
Do as I say, Not as I do
Many parents believe that it should be enough to simply tell a child that they need to eat what is put in front of them. While it’s a good goal to expect your children to respect your wishes, with food, it’s unlikely to work.
Children learn early on that one of the few things they can control in their world is food. They can refuse to eat it, and there is very little you can do about it. You can’t order a baby or toddler to eat something they really don’t want to. And if you aren’t eating it either, that’s another strike against the disliked food.
Passing Down Good Habits
Even if you do eat your veggies, your baby might be slow to decide she wants to give it a try. But even if it takes time, seeing you eat a healthy baby food diet every day will give her the impression that this is the way everyone eats. The rules aren’t just for her, but for the entire family. Starting this habit from day one with your oldest child will help it to trickle down to the rest of the children to follow. Your baby will be modeling not only your behavior, but that of any older siblings. If you have successfully instilled good eating habits in the older children, it will make it easier to convince the next child.
The best way for your baby to always see that you are eating the same healthy diet you are offering her is to make sure that the family sits down to eat a meal together regularly. This will allow baby to feel that her meals are a part of everyone else’s meals. Family dinners are also a great opportunity to spend time together as a family, and when sitting down to eat together becomes a pleasant habit, so will eating healthy foods together.
Teaching healthy eating habits doesn’t happen overnight. Every child will go through picky eating phases, but the best thing you can do is to hold firm and ride it out. As long as your child sees that you are eating right, eventually some of the lesson will sink in.