Developing healthy habits takes time and a lot of encouragement from the parents.
We spoke to registered dietician Lizandri Swanich on how parents can help their kids to develop healthy habits and some tips on how to pack a healthy lunch.
Swanich says parents often feel lost when it comes to packing their little ones healthy lunchboxes, but having a routine and meal planning can take away the stress of getting your kids to eat healthy foods.
She shares the following tips:
Lead by example
- Set a good example. Children learn from the adults around them, so you need to be a good example to your children by also leading a healthy lifestyle.
Make meals at home
- It’s also important to make meals at home. Making meals at home also gives the family an opportunity to bond. When eating a meal as a family, Swanich advises parents to never eat in front of the TV, as this defeats the purpose of eating as a family. Eating meals uninterrupted also helps us to be more mindful of the food we are eating. According to an article on Havard health publishing, eating in front of a TV makes you eat more, as you are unaware of how much you are eating.
Get your kids involved
- Get your children involved in the kitchen and put them in the “chef’s seat!” this can start with grocery shopping – get your children to assist you with the shopping and turn it into something interesting for them to do. When doing groceries, encourage them to pick healthy food, such as fruits and vegetables.
- When planning lunches, get them involved by helping you plan the meals and prepare them. “Always give them the choice – it helps them feel empowered. Make sure you are providing healthy options for them to choose from. For example, let your child choose which fruit they want in the lunchbox from a variety of fruit,” Swanich says.
By asking them to participate, you allow your children to be part of the decision making, which will help them to develop healthy eating habits.
Swanich advises against rewarding children with junk food when they’ve achieved something. “Rather choose fun activities to reward good behaviour. Children will learn to associate the unhealthy “junk” food with reward, but then feel that healthy food is a punishment,” she says.
Ideas for a healthy lunch
- Make fruit and vegetables’ fun, Get lunch boxes with sections to make it easy to include more choices, without any squishing of any food items
- Make fruit kebabs and include different colourful fruits, such as strawberries, pineapple, apples, mango slices and kiwis
- Make vegetable kebabs with cucumber, cherry tomatoes and button carrots. Serve with a dip of your child’s choice (e.g. cream cheese, cottage cheese or hummus)
- Cut an apple in 4 slices and serve with peanut butter.
To save time during the week, use the weekends to plan the week’s lunches or meals.