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Five Ways to Help Kids Make Healthier Food Choices

Posted by Mandy Sacher on March 11, 2016

Posted by Mandy Sacher on March 11, 2016

Almost half of Aussie parents are concerned that their children are unable to make healthy food choices, according to new research released this week. The study, which was conducted by Medibank and the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, also found that three in five parents were worried that their children preferred processed food to whole foods.

Other issues which were raised included the fact that just 22% of children correctly answered all questions about common fresh food sources, and 24% of primary school-aged children do not eat dinner around the table with their family regularly. But while the study certainly raises concerns, the good news is that there is plenty we can do to change the situation.

 

“It’s wonderful that there is research like this available to us,” explains Mandy Sacher, Wholesome Child founder. “It means we can gain a clearer insight into the areas which need addressing when it comes to the health issues facing our children.” Here are some simple ways to engage your children in learning about food and helping to prepare it, making them more likely to eat nourishing, healthy meals.

 

Make time for family meals

Countless studies show that eating meals regularly as a family provides numerous, lasting benefits that go far beyond simple nutrition. Adolescents who eat with their family four or more times a week do better at school, are less likely to engage in underage drinking and have less social and emotional problems. So put a ban on devices and TV at the table and make your family meals a special time to bond and chat.

 

Involve your children in your weekly shop

Take your kids to the grocery store or supermarket and let them help with the shopping. The study found that children who help their parents with grocery shopping, no matter how infrequently, are more likely to know where food comes from and how it’s grown, compared to those who never help with the shopping. “Exposure to healthy foods does not begin at mealtimes or when food is being offered on a child’s plate or in their lunchbox,” Mandy says. “It begins with repeated exposure that engages all their senses such as going with mom to the supermarket and picking out a carrot and placing it in the trolley.”

 

Let your kids into the kitchen

Teaching your children to cook sets them up with fantastic skills that will last them a lifetime. Not to mention the fact that they are much more likely to try meals they have helped to prepare themselves. Visit Wholesome Child for more tips on involving your little ones with food prep.

 

Get growing!

Whether it’s a raised vegie patch, herbs on your balcony or windowsill, or regular visits to your local community garden, kids will love learning about how food grows and enjoy reaping the rewards. “Going to a community garden and getting covered with dirt while trying to pull out a bunch of beetroot creates positive and fun associations with healthy food,” Mandy says.

 

Encourage kids to try new things

It can take up to 16 times for a child to accept a new food offered to them. The key is to keep offering it. Eventually – and usually when you least expect it – they will pick it up, lick, or even eat it. For more tips on encouraging kids to try new foods click here.

 

On a positive note, the Medicare and Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation study found that 50% of Aussie kids were involved with growing fruit and veggies at home, and 85% of primary school-aged children help prepare meals at home, with half helping at least once a week.

 

“Above all, this research reinforces our belief that it’s essential to train children’s taste-buds to enjoy nourishing, nutritionally beneficial foods as early as possible,” Mandy says. “This way you can ensure optimal development and establishment of lifelong healthy eating behaviours and food choices.”

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