Your children's formative years aren't a time when they can freely abuse their bodies to little consequence. On the contrary, it's the time when they should be building up the foundation of their health through diet and exercise, and they cannot do it without your help.
That said, it's easier said than done for mothers who groan every time their kids see another fast food advertisement on television. You know that they'll be begging for takeout the next time you're on the road. Even your local supermarket has a way of making this difficult with all the enticing decors pointing to the least healthy options in the aisle.
The good news is that the battle is far from lost. In fact, there are critical changes you can commit to that will make it easier for your kids to enjoy a healthier diet. Any advice here won't tell you to feed them more vegetables and explain why broccoli isn't disgusting — you've probably done that and more. These are some underrated pointers that you probably missed in place of the fancier and more generic ones on the web.
Control, Don't Restrict
If it doesn't work for you, it won't work for your kids. This is especially true if you've been freely eating and drinking junk food for years. Restricting might deliver some positive results, but it's guaranteed that they won't last.
The real solution is to control what, when, and how much junk food your kid consumes. If you used to order burgers and fries three times a week, why not reduce it to twice a week? Once you're comfortable with that, limit it to once a week. See if you can transition to a healthier option for burgers and fries, too.
While you're at it, make sure that you're not ordering everything in huge portions. Go for regular-sized everything, and skip add-ons like whipped cream and sprinkles. More importantly, don't order differently from your kids. They'll miss the point if they see you bingeing while they're in the backseat with less than their usual kiddie meal. You'll notice that doing so becomes easier in the long run for you and your kids.
Watch Out for Allergies
Before you make drastic changes to their diet and introduce new ingredients, it's best to get your kids tested for allergies. This will inform you of any food or substance that has adverse effects on their health so that you won't be caught by surprise. Best of all, you may even take the necessary steps to prevent their allergies from worsening and triggering other, more serious disorders.
If you've already made changes and they show symptoms of allergy, get them tested at once. It doesn't matter how mild the symptom is. You'll want it treated early with the right medicine to spare them from any complications in the future.
Associate Mealtime with Family Time
There's no better way to truly monitor your children's diet unless you make mealtimes family time. When you're all seated around the table, you have the opportunity to watch how they respond to the food and whether their portions should be controlled.
It's also the best time to promote healthy eating by example. Never underestimate just how your actions influence your children's decisions. It might not happen overnight, but seeing you choose healthy foods over and over will surely have an impact on them.
Finally, enjoying meals as a family gives them a positive association towards healthy food. They'll begin to view it as an integral part of your family system, and they'll associate it with the most important relationships in their lives.
Put Healthy Snacks on the Counter
The trick to enticing children with healthy snacks is to make them accessible. If you still have some chips and cookies in your house, put them at the very back of the pantry, where they're difficult to get. Set out a fruit basket and fill it with fruits and healthy snacking alternatives. By nature, your kids will opt for what is easier to reach for and what they see more often. This visual cue will make their transition towards healthy snacks feel effortless on their part.
It's a Lifestyle
If you're on this journey because you're concerned about your children's health, you have to understand that it's ultimately a lifestyle change you need. Every person in your house has to make the change, and you need to agree on them, particularly you and your spouse. Fortunately, one small change after another can easily snowball and make a significant difference in your family's health over time.