I was inspired by Chobani and their #ChobaniKids project to share my tips for encouraging healthy habits in children. Ava is now coming up on 17 months, but I don’t think it’s ever too early to start showing your kids what it means to live a healthy lifestyle and to make good food choices. I really want to build a strong foundation for Ava’s healthy habits now so that it’s not a struggle for her later. I remember when we first moved stateside, my uncle brought us out to lunch. He asked if we wanted salad with our meals and my brother and I looked at each other like, “What’s that?” My uncle couldn’t believe we’d never eaten salads before! I only started eating whole grains when my college friend educated me about their benefits, I pretty much grew up on white bread, rice, everything. It’s not that my parents gave us junk all the time, it’s just not something they were used to or even really knew about either. I remember telling my mom once that I started eating brown rice and she said, “Really? Is it good?” We’re Filipino, we ate white rice with almost every meal growing up (even breakfast). Ironically now, I enjoy eating healthy. I want Ava to enjoy it, too. Heart disease and diabetes both run in my family, so it makes it even more important to me that she takes good care of herself and her health.
Here are my tips for encouraging healthy habits in kids:
1. Make fresh fruits and veggies the main event.
Whenever I’m putting together a meal for Ava, I use the larger section of her plate to serve the fruits and veggies and the smaller section for meat or grains. I got these plates at our local dollar store. They’re plastic so I’m not worried about her tipping them off her tray table and I’m hoping that by showing her what her plate should look like, she’ll carry it on into the future and fill her own plate the same way. Sometimes I cut her toast into different shapes to make it more fun too! I also introduced her to wheat bread first, I actually didn’t start even eating it myself until I was in my 20’s because my parents never bought it. Whole grains are definitely a healthier option.
2. Make physical activity part of your daily routine.
The weather is getting brighter and sunnier these days so it’s the perfect time to get outdoors and get moving! On nice days, we like to go to the park, walk around the neighborhood, or even just hang in our backyard. Ava is obsessed with walking on the grass, so much so that she cries when I bring her inside! Don’t let those not-so-nice days deter you either. There are plenty of activities you can do indoors to get that physical activity in! I got this play tunnel from Ikea a couple of weeks ago and although she was hesistant at first, Ava now loves crawling through it! She’ll just go back and forth for awhile non-stop. You can also take all your couch cushions and pillows and put them on the ground to make a fun obstacle course to jump, climb over, and walk through (with parental supervision, of course). It’s a great way to build strength and balance and it won’t cost you a thing. Or just turn on some music and have a dance party! The options are endless. It’s funny that as parents we obsess of our kids eating and sleep habits, making sure they get their meals on time and get in those naps and full night’s sleep, but we don’t always think about exercise. Luckily, kids are pretty active on their own without our encouragement, but again if you make it part of the routine then they’ll be more likely to look for it to be part of their day.
3. Offer healthy choices early on. And let them choose!
When Ava was first starting table foods, I offered her a variety of fruits and vegetables in hopes that she would take a liking to them. It worked. Whenever there’s a choice of snacks, she always chooses the fruit first. During meals, she always goes for the veggies first or second (sometimes the chicken wins out!). Also, I like to offer two healthy snacks and let her choose when I can. Toddlers are all about showing their independence so if you make it their choice they’ll be more likely to eat it. Sometimes people are surprised when they see Ava eating a bowl of strawberries, or when I tell them spinach is her favorite veggie. Also, don’t be afraid to have them try something just because you think they won’t like it. I never thought to give Ava raw tomatoes, but one day they were on my salad at a restaurant and she gobbled them up!
4. Bring easy, healthy snacks when you’re on-the-go.
I always have the standard Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies or Cheerios in our diaper bag, but I also try to bring other healthy options. Bananas are great because they come wrapped and don’t require utensils. The Chobani Kids Greek Yogurt Tubes are perfect because you can actually freeze them! I just throw a couple in the freezer then I can put them in our bag before we go. The stay cold and can slowly defrost until she’s ready to eat them. The Chobani Kids Greek Yogurt is a great source of protein and are made with all natural ingredients, no articificial flavors or preservatives! I like that they’re made with 2% milk fat, the Greek yogurt Ava had been eating previously was non-fat. Adequate dietary fat intake before the age of two is important for brain development and growth (Source). All around, they’re a convenient, healthy snack that Ava enjoys.
5. Make a healthy frozen treat that kids can feed themselves!
Now that it’s getting warmer (and Ava is teething like crazy), it’s nice to make her a cool treat that’s fun because she can feed it to herself. Although I encourage healthy eating a majority of the time, I do let Ava have ‘the good stuff’ occasionally. Amazingly, this kid does not like ice cream. She’s actually not big into sweets at all. She does enjoy frozen yogurt bites though! They’re super easy to make and it’s nice to have her be able to eat it without my help since her spoon skills have not been perfected yet. Ava is all about exploring her food, and when I want her to try something new, it’s best to let her take control of the feeding. Any time I’ve tried to feed her something new myself, it usually ends badly. Since these are bite-sized and she can easily finger feed them to herself, she was able to examine them thoroughly before trying them. Once she had a couple she was all over them! Keep reading below to see how I made these.
6. Lead by example.
Have family dinner as much as possible. Model the behaviors you’d expect from your kids. Eat healthy because your kids will want to eat healthy (and hopefully because you enjoy it, too). Ava wants to try all the foods we’re eating, whether it’s chips or an apple. And Ava is obsessed with eating apples. The minute she sees one her face lights up and she makes this happy grunting noise (it’s pretty cute). I love eating apples and she sees me eating one almost daily. I think leading by example is the easiest ‘teachable moment’ you can have with your kids because it takes no real effort. You’re hungry, have a healthy snack. Kid sees you having healthy snack and wants some too. Done.
Easy Frozen Greek Yogurt Bites:
I used the Chobani Greek Yogurt Tubes which made this even more easy, but you can put the yogurt from a cup into a sandwich bag for the same effect.
1. Squeeze tube a few times to mix the yogurt for a smooth consistency. Cut off a corner of the tube to create a small opening.
2. Line a cookie sheet with foil (or wax paper). Squeeze yogurt into bite-sized dollops onto the foil.
3. Pop them into the freezer for about an hour.
4. Once frozen they should look something like this.
5. They should easily pop off the foil.
6. Store in a sandwich bag in the freezer for a quick, cool snack!
I hope you all enjoyed my tips for promoting good health in kids! Please feel free to share your tips and don’t forget to #ChobaniKids project!
*This is not a sponsored post, as always, all thoughts and opinions shared here are my own.