Parents are key players in the quest for children to eat healthy foods, and it is important to lead by example. Parents who eat vegetables have children who eat vegetables. Studies show that there is no need to make a big production or to rave about how good they taste. Kids can see through a hidden agenda. Simply make vegetables a regular part of your meals and eventually curiosity will lead your child to taste them.
Offer and observe
Expert, Ellyn Satter, has written several books on a parent’s role in healthy eating. She advises that parents are responsible for what is served, and when and where it is served. Your child is responsible for whether or not he or she eats it. Although it is frustrating, a child may need to be offered a food 15 to 20 times before trying it. As you continue to offer vegetables, you will see small changes taking place over time. It may begin with putting the food on the plate, on another occasion taking a bite and spitting it out, and later successfully eating one or two bites of the vegetable.
Don’t make vegetables the bad guy
Making a clean plate the bridge between your child and dessert or going out to play can easily backfire. The goal is to truly enjoy the food, not to make eating vegetables the dreaded task needed to get a reward.
Family meal planning
Children who are involved in meal planning and preparing vegetables are more likely to try them. Start with shopping and allowing your children to select a vegetable they would like to prepare. Look through a child-friendly cookbook together, select a recipe, and prepare it as a family.
Get involved with gardening
Growing a vegetable has a significant impact on a child’s perception of that food. Children are much more likely to eat a vegetable they have cared for, watched grow, and harvested. Not all families have the space or the time to garden, but even a single tomato plant on the balcony is a good option. Community gardens and youth gardening classes provide an opportunity for your children to learn about growing food if you are unable to garden at home.
Celebrate a "New Food Day" each week
Select one day each week when you will serve a new vegetable at dinner. Consider vegetables that are associated with a current school lesson, such as a food from a specific country in social studies or a type of plant from science class. Engage your child in selecting and preparing the new vegetable.
Incorporate vegetables into more foods
Adding vegetables to favorite dishes is one way of getting your child to eat more, but also introduce vegetables in their whole form on other occasions. Remember, the goal is for your child to develop healthy eating habits with the ability to recognize vegetables and a desire to eat them. Sneaking them in won’t accomplish this. Adding shredded carrots or summer squash to breads, muffins, and oatmeal, mixing pumpkin puree into soups and stews, and blending kale or spinach into smoothies are delicious ways to add more vegetables to meals.
Make vegetables taste good
Children can be sensitive to strong and bitter flavors making it no surprise that Brussels sprouts or raw kale often receive a negative response. It’s okay to dress up vegetables to make them more appealing. Dips made from low-fat yogurt or beans, a sprinkle of cheese, or a light coating of whole wheat breadcrumbs can make vegetables more appealing without making them unhealthy. Using cauliflower and broccoli in a vegetable-based mac-n-cheese is often a welcomed dish. Making a sweet dressing with fresh fruit puree creates a healthy salad that tastes delicious.
Serve vegetables first
Some nutrition experts recommend serving vegetables first, when your child is hungriest. Consider an appetizer of carrots and sliced bell pepper strips with yogurt-herb dip or hummus. A small salad of greens topped with dried fruit and sunflower seeds, or a cup of pureed vegetable soup topped with croutons make an ideal first course.
Research shows that children of families who eat meals together also eat more fruits and vegetables when compared to children of families who rarely eat together. Studies indicate that eating together even as few as two times per week increases fruit and vegetable intake.
Eating breakfast every morning is a common trait among people who have achieved weight loss and long-term maintenance. Research now shows that the size of your breakfast may have an impact on reaching your goals. One study found that women who ate a big breakfast (50% of their daily calories) lost more weight and inches around their waist than women eating the same number of total daily calories, but a big dinner. The big breakfast eaters also had a decrease in insulin, glucose, and triglyceride levels after their meal. This suggests that the eating pattern may be protective against diabetes, hypertension, and poor cardiovascular health.
Boost your nutrient intake.
Research shows that people who rarely eat breakfast consume fewer nutrients than regular breakfast eaters. Use the early morning to stock up on valuable nutrients that you may miss out on later in the day. For example, if a woman eats a ½ cup of oatmeal topped with a ½ cup of raspberries and 1 ounce of walnuts for breakfast, she will consume almost half of her recommended fiber intake for the day.
Decrease your risk of disease.
Regularly eating breakfast may have the power to protect your health. Research has found that those who skip breakfast were more insulin resistant (a risk factor for diabetes). One study also showed that men who skipped breakfast had a 27 percent greater risk for heart attack when compared to men who regularly ate breakfast. Additionally, common whole grain breakfast foods, like oatmeal, contain beneficial fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Feel fuller, longer.
A breakfast that is balanced in complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat helps to reduce hunger throughout the day. This decreases the risk of overeating at later meals, helping you to better identify hunger cues and control your daily calorie intake.
Refuel from the fast.
When you wake up, your body is in a fasting state and it is ready for fuel. Eating healthy foods will help replenish your nutrient stores and boost your energy throughout the day. While it’s important to eat only when you are truly hungry, it is also important to realize that years of depriving yourself through dieting can lessen your sensitivity to hunger cues. If you routinely wake up without an appetite, but find you are starving later in the day, slowly incorporate breakfast. You may find your morning hunger returns and by fulfilling it you can better control your food intake.
It is challenging to navigate the many health recommendations and diet suggestions you encounter every day. If you are having troubles deciding what, how much, and when to eat, here are a few tips for finding your own healthy eating style.
Three Meals vs. Six Meals
Recommendations seem to vary from day to day and from expert to expert, which is sure to leave you frustrated. Some say eating six small meals per day will boost metabolism, control blood sugar and hunger, and promote weight loss. Others argue that consuming only three meals per day and eliminating snacks will help control spikes and drops in blood sugar that cause hunger, and encourage the body to burn fat stores. The truth is, there is no strong scientific research to support either eating style, and many studies return neutral results when it comes to analyzing the magic number of meals to eat per day.
Most nutritionists agree that how much you eat and what you eat are more important. Eat only when you are truly hungry and choose nutrient-rich foods. Everyone is different so experiment with meal size and frequency until you find a combination that best fits your lifestyle, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and provides the energy you need to feel your best.
Value Your Choices
Consistently making beneficial food choices requires that you value nutrition and your health. We all have different values when it comes to eating. It comes down to choosing healthy foods that fit within your core set of values, including financial, spiritual, and cultural factors. When you create a long list of rules for what you can and cannot eat, you create an unhealthy relationship with food, which makes weight management more difficult. Decide what is important to you and make healthy choices that meet your needs. There are many forms of a healthy diet.
Allergies and Intolerances
Food allergies and intolerances play a significant role in dietary intake. Food allergies come on suddenly and they can be life threatening, which requires the elimination of the trigger food. But many food intolerances simply cause discomfort, and they may take more time to understand and identify. Some of the most common food intolerances include lactose (the sugar found in dairy), sulfites (found in alcoholic beverages and an additive in processed foods), and gluten (a protein in wheat, rye and barley).
First, talk with doctor if you suspect you have a food intolerance. After following the advice of a health professional, if you still experience problems, experiment with reducing or eliminating suspected trigger foods from your diet. Just be sure to replace any nutrients you may lose with other foods that contain them. For example, if dairy is a major source of calcium for you, be sure to replace it with other calcium-rich foods.
How you choose to spend your leisure time can make a big difference in your fitness level. These hobbies will keep you moving and get you excited about living a healthy lifestyle.
Hiking and camping are not activities for the couch potato. Carrying supplies, setting up camp, and exploring trails requires at least a moderate level of fitness. The more challenging the hikes and the higher the elevation, the better shape you will need to be in. The calories you burn and the muscles you strengthen while exploring the outdoors will improve your physical health, but the mental break that nature provides will bring you back to your daily activities with a renewed spirit and a positive attitude.
You don’t have to leave recreational sports behind as you get older. Adult leagues for softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, rowing, skating, and more can be found in most communities. Start by checking out your local office of Parks and Recreation. Spending a few hours a week playing a sport you enjoy allows you to get in exercise without a structured session at the gym.
Whether you tend to flowers, herbs, or vegetables, gardening keeps you active mentally and physically. Research from Jill Litt, Ph.D. of the University of Colorado found that people who participate in community gardening cultivate relationships with their neighbors, have a more positive outlook on health, and eat better. Research also estimates that gardeners engage in 30% more exercise than non-gardeners. From planting to harvest, the tasks involved boost the number of daily calories you burn.
An interest in history doesn’t mean you have to keep your nose in a book. Exploring historic monuments, visiting museums, and touring cities on foot are all ways to feed your passion while staying active.
The desire to cook and enjoy delicious food does not have to guarantee weight gain. Healthy cooking classes can be found at local grocery stores, community centers and universities. These classes will teach you how to use fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to create nutritious meals that you enjoy eating. Research shows that improving food and cooking skills may have a positive impact on food choices.
Active volunteering takes many forms. You can help out at a local charity fitness event, assist at clean-up days in your community, or work with youth. Anything that involves physical labor or recreational play will keep you moving and burn the calories needed for weight control.
Traveling gives you a break from your normal routine which improves your attitude and renews motivation. It also provides plenty of opportunities to keep you active. Exploring parks, visiting tourist attractions and browsing the local markets all contribute to active travel. If you are more adventurous, take things to the next level with hiking, rock climbing, or zipline tours.
Don’t become a victim of airport food courts and gas station food. While healthier options are becoming more available, nothing beats having your own stash of snacks to turn to. Take along foods with complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean protein that will keep you satisfied. Try roasted chickpeas, a healthy muffin, and some fruit.
Keep it light
Avoid packing more in your luggage than you can handle. Heavy shoulder bags and backpacks add stress to your back, neck, and shoulders which can leave you with aching muscles. Tugging on a large suitcase to get it out of the car or onto the airline scale puts you at risk for a pulled back muscle. When large, heavy bags are required, use correct lifting form
and a cart to transport them.
Shoes are essential
Your reason for travel will likely dictate your wardrobe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come equipped with athletic shoes. Always keep a pair in your carry-on and you won’t have any excuses for not taking a few laps around the airport during your layover.
Traveling well-hydrated is a challenge. No one wants to be running to the bathroom multiple times on a long trip, but the dehydrating effects of travel make it necessary to keep drinking. Determine your daily water requirement and stick with it, even when traveling. Also keep your fluid intake up the day or two before to ensure you are well hydrated before your trip begins.
Long lines, crowded airports and unexpected delays can make travel stressful, which can lead to emotional eating. The rule of “eat only when you are truly hungry” still applies on the road. When you feel stress building, take a second to close your laptop and set down your phone. Read a few pages of your novel or listen to a podcast, or grab a cup of soothing hot tea.
It’s tempting to abandon your workouts, but exercise will make you feel better both mentally and physically. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to your normal program. Exercising when traveling may mean you have to reduce the time or intensity. Go for a two-mile jog around downtown instead of your usual four-miler. Join a walking tour of the city, or ask your hotel if they partner with fitness centers in the area that offer classes to guests.