I was at our family doctor’s office recently for my youngest daughter’s three year check-up. As we always do at annual check-ups, she turned her computer monitor so I could see where she fell on the growth curve. She was in the 90th percentile for height and 93rd percentile for weight. Whoa! Both of my girls had always scored high on the growth charts, but that usually tapered off by three years of age. This was clearly not the case for my spirited little one!
I started wondering, did I feed her too much? I take my kids’ food very seriously, always trying to make fresh, homemade meals (when possible).
“Keep doing what you are doing,” my doctor reassured. “She is obviously eating well and is healthy.”
On the drive home, I started thinking - was I doing enough to ensure good eating habits for my kids? Did I promote healthy choices on a daily basis? As a multi-tasking and working mom, I try my best to prepare balanced, unprocessed meals, but that is not always an option! Between school pick-ups, teaching, swimming, dance classes and deadlines, sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day and fast, ready-made meals must suffice.
Perhaps I was just lucky to have two good eaters and had hit the food jackpot? Or did my choices and examples at home actually make a difference? I knew it couldn’t be completely genetic seeing as I was once quite a selective eater myself and my husband was and still is the ultimate in picky eating (no cheese unless it is melted and absolutely NO EGGS, among others). How did I end up with two healthy, adventurous eaters?
I never really considered myself a true ‘foodie’, but admit that as I age and ride the wave of adulthood into my forties, I have grown to love the culinary arts and actually find cooking therapeutic. Having kids made me take a hard look at what foods I was eating and what type of food role model I wanted to be for my children.
So I started thinking about some of the tactics and strategies that I used at home to promote healthy eating habits with my family. Let me make it clear – I am not a registered dietician or health expert, just your-average-mom trying to be a good role model and share some practical advice!
Here are some tips for promoting healthy eating habits in your home:
- Have it handy – I keep a copy of Canada’s Food Guide on my fridge, visible from the kitchen table. When making food choices, I often refer to it as the ‘food rainbow” and encourage my daughters to study the different food groups and choose a variety of items from the categories of food. When meal planning, we consult it often, deciding on suitable and healthy proteins, carbs and plenty of fruit and veg. Call it old school, but it works for us!
- Healthy choices in plain sight – I wash and store most fruits and some veg on our kitchen table, in an overflowing bowl, like bananas, avocados, mangoes, pears, nectarines, apples, etc. As the kids can see them, they tend to choose those for snacks (OK, maybe not ALL of the time). This gives kids freedom of choice and lessens the pressure to always eat what mom and dad want, allowing them to make personal decisions about their food
- Dinner doesn’t have to be meat and two veg – Although my husband refuses to participate (LOL), the girls and I go vegetarian or even vegan some nights. There are so many meat alternatives nowadays, and they taste damn good too! The Mabelhood has some fast, fresh and tasty meat-free ideas and The Girl on Bloor has a decent stash of recipes for busy people who want to eat healthy on the go!
- Get kids cooking – having your kids participate in cooking, baking or any meal prep at all is by far the best thing you can do to get them thinking about healthy food choices. Getting ‘hands on’ with food has more of an impact than anything and it is a basic life skill. Don’t take my word for it, there is plenty of research to prove it
- Be a decent role model – According to a Harvard study, parents who modeled a healthy diet were far less likely to have children who developed obesity later in life. We may not be perfect parents, but teaching our kids the right food choices does matter. Giving kids good food habits early goes a long way!
For more tips on encouraging healthy eating habits with kids, go here. If you live in the Halton region, you can speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) about parenting and healthy eating by simply dialing 311 or 905-825-6000.