My mum and dad used to say this to us all the time. Their own parents probably said it to them to, and their grandparents to their parents.
And I say it to my kids too.
“Eat it because it’s good for you”.
Do you find yourself telling your children that certain foods are ‘good for them’ or that they are ‘healthy’? As adults, we understand what that means, but what does it mean to your children? Why should they care?
The problem with trying to convince our kids to eat healthy food by saying “it’s good for you” is that it doesn’t mean much to them.
It’s a lot easier to convince children to put on a jumper if they feel how cold it is outside. For our children to make smart choices about food, we need to teach them the fundamentals of health and nutrition in a way that they can understand.
I constantly remind my kids that they need 4 things to be healthy:
- Nutritious food
- Lots of exercise
- Lots of water
- Good sleep
This is not news to us, but the beauty of it is that it is easy for children to learn these healthy principles. We tell them that if they follow these simple rules, they get to play good rugby, sleep well at night, have lots of energy to play at the park, learn well at school, have lots of good ideas, fight viruses, grow strong, keep their teeth healthy, and feel happy.
When you talk about big muscles, strong bones, soft skin, strong teeth, having energy, sleeping well, being smart, feeling happy, and not getting sick, young children get it.
It helps them to understand what it means to be healthy and see why it’s important and what’s in it for them.
To help your child understand and care about healthy nutrition, try to relate the healthy foods they eat to health outcomes they enjoy, for example:
“I’m proud of you for eating so well because it will help you learn at school.”
“The broccoli and carrots on your plate will help you to grow strong.”
“Your tummy is digesting your food very well because of all the water you drink. Your tummy likes it when you help it out with lots of water!”
“Feel how hard and strong your bones are. These almonds will help to keep your bones nice and strong, so you can climb better and run faster.”
“Well done for playing so well in your soccer game today! I’m sure your healthy breakfast gave you lots of energy and helped to make your muscles strong.”
Satiety and health benefits are the rewards we feel in our mind and body for eating healthily. They include strong muscles, energy, feeling full and satisfied, feeling hydrated, feeling good, maintaining a healthy body weight, having a healthy brain for learning and preventing illness. While these are more difficult for young children to appreciate, you can gradually help your child tune in to those rewards.
Show your child that they have strong muscles; that they can concentrate on a puzzle; that they can run fast from eating healthy foods. “Show me your big muscles”; “Wow, you run so fast, must be the veggies you ate for lunch!”
The more your child understand what’s in it for them, the more they will care about eating healthy foods!