How to talk to children about healthy eating Habits

Talking about healthy eating can be an important part of creating healthy eating habits. This can be quickly and simply done, without overloading children with talk of nutrition and different nutrients. I’ve suggested below some ways to talk to children about healthy eating, even young children.

Different types of foods

There are of course different types of foods and healthy eating isn’t about forbidding any one type but enjoying various foods in the right amounts. I like the following idea that divides all food into three groups:

1 Growing foods: This is a term I really like as it clearly shows that these foods help children grow. These are the building blocks or fuel for our body. It is even better to link these foods with whatever is desirable for your child at that stage, for example, ‘superhero powers’, ability to run faster, score more goals etc. This is why we eat these foods most often and they include whole grains, lean protein, good fats, fruit and vegetables. I would often use this term instead of ‘healthy foods’ as this may be seen as negative.

2 Sometimes foods: This is a great way to describe treats or foods that are high in sugar and salt etc. These are for eating ‘sometimes’ because they contain, for example, no lasting ‘super powers’. It is useful to remind us all, even young children that we don’t eat treats like jellies all the time; as we‘ll feel poorly if we eat too many treats too often.

3 Other foods: These fall in between growing foods and sometimes foods, as they often have sugar, salt or other ingredients added to the growing foods, for example, sweetened yoghurt or they may contain very little of growing foods, for example, rice cakes.

Variety of foods

We all need a variety of different types of foods to ensure we stay well and even more so for young bodies that are still growing. This reminds us, for example, that it is better not to eat the same food more than once a day.

Balance the Plate: We eat a number of different types of foods for a meal or snack sometimes; for example, just bread or pasta is not a balanced meal. Balancing the plate ensures we get the most benefits from our food, for example, we have enough fuel from our breakfast to be able to play all morning or work in school.

Rotating foods

We all have favourite foods but that is not enough reason to eat just our favourite foods all the time. If we eat the same food too often we probably will eventually get tired of it and not want to eat it at all anymore. That is one of the reasons it is so important to rotate between different foods; that is we eat different foods over a few days.

Filling up on juice and milk

Liquids as well as food fill up our bellies. Take for example, before a meal we drink lots of juice or milk then there isn’t much space left for food, especially growing foods.

What we eat most

What we eat most of the time is what matters most. A useful way to think of this is the 80/20 approach, which suggests that we eat growing foods 80 per cent of the time and the rest of the time we can eat other foods including treats.

Talk to your child simply about what’s involved in healthy eating habits, especially enjoying a variety of food types and balancing the amounts of different foods

Information provided by Dr. Colette Reynolds, a Nutrition and Healthy Eating Coach and Founder of Growing Healthy Eaters. Growing Healthy Eaters supports and advises parents and children to eat and enjoy a wide variety of foods and develop lifelong healthy eating habits, including fussy eaters.

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