BY MISSY CORRIGAN
Special to The Sumter Item
Ask anyone what makes a healthy meal, and you’re likely to get varying opinions. Rarely do kids and adults agree, but then again rarely do many adults agree. Our food patterns, behaviors and beliefs develop throughout childhood, heavily influenced by the ones who raise us. Finding the balance between food kids need for proper growth and development and food they will actually eat can be an ongoing challenge. However, it is still important to learn the basics of healthy eating at a young age, or any age for that matter, and develop a strategy for putting it into action.
According to Jill Castle, RD, and Maryann Jacobsen, RD, the authors of “Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School,” the main challenge of feeding our families is the lack of a strategy. They write, “Our culture of feeding is very short-term focused and quick to offer advice on WHAT to feed, rather than on HOW or WHY.”
Creating a plan for talking to kids about food is the first step in developing healthier eating patterns for the entire family. Lead by example, and model the food selections and eating patterns that you want to see in your children. If taste and convenience are the sole factors that determine what you eat, your children will learn to make their choices based on the same things. Your children (from toddler to teenager) will learn so much more from watching you than from listening to your instructions.
Make a meal plan for the week, and let your kids assist. Involve kids in food shopping, and get them in the kitchen. Involve them in preparing meals, washing fruits and vegetables, reading recipes and measuring ingredients. Even though this might take more time, passing on important skills and knowledge that kids can carry with them into adulthood is vital to good health. The added bonus is quality family time.
While there is no perfect way to healthier eating habits, experts say that making small changes while involving the kids and allowing them to help choose ideas for meals is most effective. And although meeting resistance and challenges during this time is to be expected, stick to your strategy and continue talking about the importance of healthy eating.
Missy Corrigan is executive of community health for Sumter Family YMCA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 773-1404.