Most parents approach parenthood with the intention of setting the best examples for their children. When it comes to establishing a healthy eating environment, the challenge can almost seem insurmountable—especially if you’re unaware that the choices you’re making prevent your children from having a healthy relationship with food.
You are not alone; many parents struggle with the best ways to create healthy eating habits for their children. Here are common mistakes parents make that sabotage healthy eating.
Disguising Vegetables in Meals
Parents are not above sneaking vegetables in a meal to get their kids to eat healthy. After all, nutritionists and health junkies champion vegetables as a key ingredient for healthy eating. So what if you have to puree those green and leafy vegetables and secretly add them into meals so your kids will get the nutrients they need? It gets the job done for the moment, but experts believe it’s a short-term solution for a long-term goal.
If you want to cultivate healthy eating patterns your children will adopt for the rest of their lives, disguising vegetables in meals will only prevent them from learning how to eat healthy and enjoy doing so.
Serving Sport Drinks and Juices
Passing your child a juice or sports drink after playtime or practice may seem like an obviously good parenting choice. However, these drinks are often loaded with sugar, the content of which is sometimes equal to that of a Twix candy bar! According to a January 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, between 2011 and 2014, nearly two-thirds of kids in the United States consumed at least one sugary drink on any given day and almost one third drank two or more.
Instead of sugar-sweetened beverages that are linked to weight gain, high cholesterol and Type-2 diabetes, try water infused with lemon or another favorite fruit to quench your child’s thirst.
Believing “Gluten-Free” Means “Healthy”
This may be a major myth buster for you, but just because food is labeled as “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Be aware that much of the gluten-free products sold in stores contain gluten, flour and food additives that are unhealthy for your children.
The best way to avoid this confusion is to serve your children mostly whole foods that are gluten-free; this includes fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and gluten-free grains like oats and quinoa.
Restricting Certain Foods
According to a study published in the journal Appetite, when “children are presented with treats, but consumption of those treats is restricted, they are actually more likely to struggle with self-regulation in the future.”
Regularly restricting your child’s eating can put them at a higher risk for future unhealthy eating habits and weight issues. Parents should strive to regulate their children eating without restriction. By keeping highly processed and sugar-loaded foods out of the home altogether, you can better demonstrate healthy eating patterns to your children.
Getting your children to eat healthy can seem like the least of your worries as parents. It is often easier for parents to admit defeat in this area under the pressure of work responsibilities, PTAs, laundry, homework quality assurance and the other million things expected of them. Teaching your children the benefits of healthy eating and self-regulation is challenging, but don’t become discouraged.
Like with anything else worth teaching them, it takes repeated exposure to an idea, custom or chore before it’s routinely accepted and appreciated. Remember: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
What are some of the mistakes you have made in teaching your children healthy eating habits? Were you able to correct them? What tips do you have for other parents? Let us know in the comments below!