May 10th, 2018

Living on F-Factor: Kids and healthy eating

You asked, we listened. Follower question of the week.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, has taco night with her twins.

Q: I want my kids to have healthy eating habits. How do I encourage my kids to eat healthy? 

A: With childhood obesity on the rise, parents are becoming increasingly concerned with what to feed their children to help create healthy habits. Well our leading lady, Tanya Zuckerbrot, mother of three, might know a thing or two. Here are her top tips on how she helps encourage her children’s healthy habits…

Lead by example: You can’t expect your kids to eat carrot sticks if you’re sitting next to them munching on potato chips. If your kids see you truly enjoying food that’s healthy, they are likely to try it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to enjoy a snack of F-Factor Pizzas and my kids come over and ask if they can have one. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In fact, one 2015 study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that parents who provided their children with more variety of fruits and vegetables options throughout the day, as well as ate them around their children, saw a significant increase on their children’s consumption. 

Cook with your kids: Children take pride in creating. Cooking with your children is not only fun for them (and for you, depending how you tolerant you are to a little mess ;)) but it provides an opportunity to build confidence, self-esteem all while encouraging them to taste delicious and healthy foods. A 2014 study published in the journal Appetite, showed that children who are involved in the preparation of a new dish are much more likely to taste it. The study found children were more likely to taste the dish they helped prepare, even if it was a salad. If you can’t get your kids to eat their broccoli, see how they feel after you make this recipe together. 

Do not over-police your kids: Children who grow up in overly restrictive households with only “healthy” food are more likely to binge the second they leave the house. We all know the saying, “you always want want you can’t have,” research shows when “junk food” is not allowed it can become more desired. One 2014 study, published in the journal Appetite, confirmed that restricting children from the desired, palatable foods they enjoy, lead to increased intake once exposed to that food again. The solution is moderation. Make sure your children’s meals are well-balanced. But allow for occasional treats such as ice cream or a cookie. And give them a little autonomy in their decision too. In my house we have a snack drawer that my children can access any time. Because it’s there for them, they don’t obsess about it, and because the stigma has been removed, it’s less desirable to them.

You are your child’s biggest role model. Lead by example, show them how to prepare their own healthy meals, and allow them to enjoy a sweet treat with you when appropriate. If your child isn’t enjoying the broccoli on their plate, give them time. It can take anywhere from 5-10 attempts of trying a new food for a child to accept it. Various studies examined what determines a child’s eating behavior and states the importance of parents not just being role models, but the need for parents to schedule meal times, provide appropriate portion sizes and to make meal time a social experience.