Your children’s mealtime environment depends on where they are having their meals and snacks. It is very important to create a healthy and positive eating environment when having meals at home.
So how do you create a positive and healthy eating environment for your child at home?
Tips to provide a healthy eating environment for your children:
- Create a pleasant atmosphere for meals and snack time. Avoid distractions.
Talk with your children and family about the food they are eating and about the day’s activities. Distractions at mealtime can include watching television and other screens such as computer tablets, speaking on the phone or playing with toys. Turn off the television/electronics and remove toys from the area where you are eating.
- Have meals and snacks around the same time every day.
Children respond well to routine. Having meals and snacks around the same time every day, provides children with structure. This will help them know when they will be fed and may be less likely to overeat or snack close to set meal times.
- Present food that is appealing.
Depending on your child’s age, offer bright, colourful food with a variety of textures such as yellow pineapple slices, red strawberries, or baked sweet potato chips.
Try offering food in interesting shapes such as pinwheel sandwiches cut in circles, carrot and cheese sandwiches cut in little squares or cut lengthwise in bite-sized pieces.
Children can help you make these sandwiches. Involving children in food preparation can help make them more more interested in trying new foods at mealtimes.
- Eat meals with children.
Children learn from observation and model the eating behaviours of their parents/caregivers. Eating together allows you to be a role mode and to teach children healthy eating habits, set good examples and help them develop social skills. For example, eating and enjoying vegetables and a variety of foods at mealtime is a great activity that children can model.
- Have positive eating habits around food.
Help children listen to their bodies by letting them follow their hunger and fullness cues. Bribing or forcing children to “clean their plate” when they are not hungry does not allow them to follow their natural signs of being hungry or full.
The eating environment is a really important time to set a positive tone for a lifetime of healthy eating habits for children.