There are countless benefits to eating healthy for kids, but encouraging good habits can be difficult. A diet of vegetables, fruit, lean protein and low-fat dairy is a must for a child's development, according to the Mouth Healthy website by the American Dental Association, but kids aren't exactly excited about the prospect of those types of foods. Summer is the perfect time to get your kids more involved in the cooking, planning and eating process, and inspire healthier eating habits all day.
Get your kids in the kitchen so that the healthy foods they eat are the same ones that they helped prepare. Pick up a cookbook full of recipes that appeal to kids, and spend some time in the afternoon picking out a few to make for the week ahead.
An older child can learn the basics of chopping and roasting vegetables. Younger kids can help you thread pre-chopped veggies onto skewers for vegetable kabobs, or layer a fruit and low-fat yogurt parfait for breakfast. Healthy lunch recipes are good starter projects as well. Consider a veggie wrap or turkey roll-up.
Plant a Garden
Eating healthy for kids can start right at the source: homegrown vegetables. Certain raw vegetables, such as carrots and celery, are ideal for maintaining good oral health because they improve the flow of saliva and can act almost like a toothbrush, washing food particles and bacteria away from teeth. Stick to a few vegetables that are relatively easy to grow. Lettuce and peppers are easy for kids to grow, and rich in vitamins and fiber. When it's time to harvest the fruits (and veggies) of your labor, pick a recipe and put what you've grown in a dinner that the kids can be proud of.
Offer Healthy Snacks
Getting your kids to eat well means limiting the amount of sweets you have in the house. Stock up on tasty and healthy snacks instead of chips, cakes and candy. For example, you might replace candy with fruit, which provides the same sweet flavor without the unhealthy ingredients. Swap the potato chips with carrot sticks, or a handful of almonds, which are a good source of the protein and calcium. Part of the appeal of not-so-healthy treats is that they're usually easy to get to. Make the healthy snacks just as convenient by putting containers of pre-cut veggies and fruits in the fridge where your child can see them.
Award Their Effort
Kids will get on the good diet bandwagon if there's something (other than health) in it for them. Take a page out of their teacher's book and create an award program. Make or print out a calendar, and every time your child picks a healthy snack, brushes his teeth, or flosses, a sticker goes up on the calender. Give out an award at the end of each month, and watch them brush at the sink all by themselves. Maybe that award is a fun, powered toothbrush such as Colgate® Kids Transformers™ brush.
Eating healthy is just the start. For the healthiest mouth possible, remember to have your children brush twice a day and floss at least once a day. Twice yearly visits to the dentist will make sure your child's teeth, gums and mouth are in fine shape.