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How to Model Healthy Eating Habits for Kids


healthy eating habits

Spaghetti - Yum!

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One of my mom friends hates, I mean, hates, vegetables. She can't stand anything green.

Really, she'd be very happy if the government, popular press and medical community suddenly declared a diet of pizza and burgers to be the pinnacle of health.

But, like most moms, she doesn't want her kids developing her poor eating habits. She knows that in order to get kids to eat vegetables, you have to model good eating habits yourself.

So she gags down a few bites of broccoli between forced smiles every so often. She serves bowls of green beans and carrots every night. And she talks about vegetables in positive, encouraging ways.

Why, then, aren't her kids any more enamored of the green things than she is? Because you can't fake good modeling.

The Right Way to Model Healthy Eating Habits

If you really want to model good eating habits, you have to do it with foods you like yourself. Start with carrots, corn or other vegetables with a high sugar content.

Carrots are terrific, because they offer a nice crunch and a burst of sweetness when they're fresh.

Plus, they come in those convenient, pre-peeled and pre-washed packs. Serve carrots with peanut butter, ranch dressing or even ketchup.

Then move on to other, tougher vegetables, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

I once developed a chocolate-covered broccoli recipe. It isn't exactly the ultimate in overall nutrition, but it isn't a bad way to introduce a new vegetable.

I always say when you're trying something new, it's always easier to have a good friend around. And in my book, chocolate is a very good friend.

Frequency is the Key to Good Modeling

Frequency is the key to success in modeling good eating habits. Indeed, the more often you eat vegetables, the more likely your kids are to try them.

But be aware: Modeling good eating habits doesn't "work" immediately, any more than learning how to catch a baseball or jump off the high dive clicks the first time.

Forcing Prevents Kids From Developing Healthy Eating Habits

Modeling is not pushing. It is a passive, Zen-like method for bringing about change.

Suggesting, offering, discussing, cajoling, and bribing thwart good modeling. Indeed, the more you "suggest" a child try a new food, the less likely he will be to try it.

In short, modeling is one of the single most effective ways to help kids eat vegetables for life, but it doesn't work by force of will. It works by letting go.

Just concentrate on preparing and enjoying vegetables in ways you really like, and let your kids absorb your attitudes and behaviors the way they absorb your attitudes and behaviors toward school, friendship, sports and everything else.

Don't eat many vegetables yourself? Ah, then it's a matter of finding ways you can enjoy vegetables (and focusing less on the kids). My fried Brussels sprouts recipe is a good start. Once you see how incredible a sometimes bitter vegetable like Brussels sprouts can taste, you'll want to try more.

For more help, sign up for my Coping with Picky Eaters email class. You'll get unique strategies to help, plus lots of cool recipes, too.

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