Healthy Food Choices for Kids

Encouraging healthy food choices for kids starts with helping them to develop a positive attitude towards eating it. Using the “if you don’t eat your vegetables you can’t watch TV approach” is likely to make your child just like vegetables even less. The goal is to get your kids to eat healthy food because they want to and because their bodies crave it.

The Body Naturally Craves Healthy Food

Kids’ bodies naturally send a message to their brains that says “eat good food.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of other messages that makes kids ignore what their bodies are telling them. Often kids will see the “junk food is fun” message on TV or learn the “sweets make me happy” lesson which gives them the wrong ideas about food. You want your child to believe we feel good when we are healthy and good health comes from making wise food choices. Encouraging healthy food choices for kids requires sending some food messages of your own. Most importantly, you must set a healthy example for your children by eating right yourself. A powerful way to encourage healthy food choices for kids is the way you answer questions they have about food and health. If your child asks why someone they see is overweight tell them, “They made poor food choices.” This message can be even stronger if your child asks about someone who is sick with a diet related illness. Making the connection between feeling bad and eating poor quality food is a very important lesson to teach your children.

Messages from Inside and Outside the Body

Children’s brains learn to control food cravings by listening to messages from inside and outside. The process that gets their body to tell them to eat healthy food is called positive metabolic programming. Positive metabolic programming gets the cells used to an optimal level of nutrients to maintain good health. When children eat healthy food their body says “this is what I want,” and the cells send out neurochemicals that guide their cravings toward healthy eating.

Listen to Their Gut

Healthy food choices for kids are made much easier when they learn to literally “listen to their gut” when it comes to making food choices. Most of the body’s serotonin is produced in the intestinal lining which means the food that passes through the gut heavily influences how we feel emotionally. (There is some neurochemical truth behind the idea of “gut feelings”). When good food passes through the gut, kids feel happier. Eating high sugar foods can give a child a false sense of feeling good when they get the sugar rush immediately afterwards, but they feel worse in the long run. Unfortunately, many kids think they just need to eat more sugary foods to feel better. If a child is used to eating healthy real food and feeling good as a result of it, they will not enjoy how junk food makes them feel. At a very young age children are able to make this connection between what they eat and how they feel.

It is very important to encourage healthy food choices for kids by helping them develop positive attitudes toward eating healthy real food. If their bodies crave healthy food by the time they are bombarded with advertisements for junk food and peers making poor nutritional choices, they will be in a much better position to make the right choice.

Sears, William. The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood. New York City: Little, Brown and Company, 2006. 41-43.

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