Trying to make sure that your family eats healthily isn’t always as it sounds. As busy parents, we often have so many demands made on our time. Trying to juggle our work lives with our home lives can be stressful, which is often exhausting in itself. Many of us find we lack the time and energy to ensure our family eats a healthy and varied diet. Trying to find meals to prepare that your family can all eat together, and that everybody likes can be quite a challenge. Some children also have a tendency to go through periods of fussy eating. This can make preparing meals that the whole family will enjoy even more difficult.
Taking the Easy Option
So, it can be of little wonder that many of us end up eating out, or going for the easiest and quickest options when we do prepare a meal from home. Whilst this is understandable, by sticking to the same dietary routine, it becomes all too easy to get ‘stuck in a rut’. If you lose your passion for eating healthy food, this is likely to have an affect on your children. Whilst you can’t free up time that you don’t have, what you can do is use the time that you do have more effectively.
The Importance of the Early Years
The relationship that we have with food as adults is largely defined by our experiences of eating during our formative years. This is why it’s crucial to educate our children as much as possible, and nurture a love of healthy food from an early age. So, just how exactly are time-poor parents supposed to achieve this? Well, in actual fact it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Remember, you’re not the first parent to encounter this problem. Many chefs are parents too! So, there are countless recipe books that show you how to prepare a healthy and tasty meal in less time than it takes to order a takeaway. All you have to do is have the courage to break out of your current routine.
The Fussy Eating Phase
If your child is one of thousands who’s going through a ‘fussy eating’ stage, this can be especially worrying for parents. However, it’s a very common stage for kids to go through. When young children first start interacting with their peer group, it’s common for some kids to decide that they suddenly don’t like vegetables. It’s got nothing to do with the taste of sprouts or broccoli, it’s about your child trying to fit in with their peer group. The worst thing you can do is allow yourself to become stressed by it. Your child is going to pick up on this, and you become in danger of making it into more of a problem than it needs to be.
Parents of fussy eaters often worry that their child isn’t getting enough nutrition. Through desperation, some resort to force-feeding, being at a complete loss as to what to do. Whilst understandable, this is the worst thing you can do. You don’t want your child to associate eating healthy food with stress as they’re more likely to opt for unhealthy foods as adults.
Most children grow out of this phase naturally, in the meantime try not to worry. Even if your child is sticking to the same foods every day, that’s fine. The main thing is that they’re eating something. As long as they’re also presented with other options, they’ll start their own culinary exploration when they’re good and ready. Children tend to be more in touch with what their body needs than adults. If their body is in need of more nutrition, whether it be iron, calcium or vitamin D, your child will soon let you know about it. They’ll naturally start eating foods that contain whatever nutrients they aren’t getting enough of.
It’s all About Balance
The other thing to remember is that eating healthily doesn’t have to be boring. It’s not just about eating fruits and vegetables and shunning meat and dairy products. Healthy eating is about balance, and that’s the most important thing that you want to teach your family. How healthy a meal is is largely down to who supplies the ingredients. A cheap cut of meat from your supermarket isn’t going to be as healthy (or delicious!) as meat from your local butchers. Failing that there are plenty of reputable online suppliers, such as Britain’s leading mail order meat supplier Donald Russell. You can even buy ready-prepared meals, to help take the stress out of cooking, and to allow you to spend more time with your family.
Injecting the Fun into Eating Healthily
Encouraging kids to eat healthily is largely about education, but equally it’s about having fun. If children see you stressing out about calorie counting, or preparation time, this is going to have a negative effect. Introducing new ingredients into their diets encourages children to become more adventurous with food when they become adults. They’ll have more of an awareness of taste and flavour, and be more willing to experiment and try new things.
What’s important is that when you do get a chance to prepare a meal and eat together, you make an occasion of it. If you are cooking a meal from scratch, try and involve the kids in the process as much as possible. Give them little jobs to do; they’re far more likely to be open to trying new things if they’ve helped to make it. When sitting down to eat, ban the use of mobile phones, or any other distractions. This will allow you to spend quality time together as a family. Ask your kids about their day – eat, drink and laugh together. Then when your kids get older they’ll look back and associate healthy eating with the wonderful times they shared with their family. This is the best possible way of helping to ensure that your children grow up to have a happy and healthy relationship with food.