Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits

February 27, 2019, Shirley Blake

March is right around the corner and with that is National Nutrition Month.

Having good eating habits takes knowledge, discipline, and being intentional. I cannot say that I have the most consistent and healthiest eating habits. I grew up having access to and eating healthy foods; however, there were many times where I went down to Dari-Mart with a quarter in my pocket to purchase a Little Debbie snack. Another memory around food I have from my childhood is going out to eat with my family. My parents would often choose to go to the local buffet. Originally, it was North’s Chuck Wagon, with a buffet bar of hearty comfort like fried chicken, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes. Later it was bought out and became the New China Buffet, and it now serves Chinese cuisine, such as noodles, rice, seafood and vegetables. My family of six loved going there. There was an array of food for everyone to choose from and I think the all-you-can-eat approach for a large family is budget-friendly. The rule in our family when eating at a buffet was when you serve yourself you must eat everything you take. I literally mean all the food. Since it was a buffet, my parents thought it was disrespectful to leave food on your plate because you are not paying for the dish you are paying for unlimited food. Another thing we would do was to skip our breakfast and go to the buffet for brunch. By the time we arrived at the buffet we were all so hungry. Therefore, as a little girl that was very hungry I would over-serve myself and then make myself eat all the food from my plate so I wouldn’t get scolded. Situations like these harbored the creation of some bad eating habits for myself.

When I became a mom, I wanted to have a different approach to help nurture good eating habits for my children. Through parenting books, magazine articles, and a parenting class I have learned some good skills. First, I do not go to the store hungry otherwise, I would choose unhealthy foods that I crave when hungry. Then the kids get to pick out their own fruits and veggies for the week. I also like to look on Pinterest for fun food ideas. They have creative ideas such as making smiling-faces or animal shapes out of vegetables. However, I do not always have the time and motivation for so much creativity. Nonetheless, there are other ways to help your child have healthy eating habits and a healthy food relationship.

I have found that having the correct wording when you talk to your little one goes a long way, as does explaining the education around healthy food choices. Saying, “You have to eat this” may sound aggressive, but “reframing” it to “this is healthy for you to eat” is more encouraging. I want to help my child be confident in themselves. Being mindful in how I say things around food helps them in figuring out portion control. I respect when they say they are full or hungry, and accept if they do not want to eat at the time. Consistent times when serving meals and snacks helps create a good food schedule. It also helps create stability and security around food because your children know at “X-time” there will be food served.

I have a magnet I got at a resource fair that is a good reminder for me. I want to share what it states:

Parents Decide:  

What food is offered
When food is offered
Where food is eaten

Children Decide:

Whether or not to eat
How much to eat

There are so many wonderful resources around healthy nutrition. We are also very lucky to have the OSU Extension Service that has a lot of great information around food! Below are some great links, so be sure to check out their food blog—it’s very cool!

More information:

Food Hero Monthly – features recipes and cooking and shopping tips
Feeding Young Children– tips and developmentally appropriate information
Good Eating Experience– serving foods safely and offering nutritious foods
Oregon State University Extension Service– Families, healthy and food