Let’s face it. Kids are fussy eaters. It’s almost as if they were born to challenge us every mealtime. To encourage healthy eating and to get the right balance of good foods over the naughty ones is tough. As adults we also dabble in a little bit extra at times so it’s not surprising that our children can give into temptation too.
This article isn’t about white versus multigrain or fresh over frozen. It won’t discuss gluten free or paleo and you won’t be hearing about diets, potions or pills. It’s simply about balance, about moderation; ensuring that we don’t enjoy too much of one thing over of another. Once this balance becomes the norm the stress of ‘am I getting the right nutrients’ or ‘are my kids drinking enough’ will no longer be part of your daily dialogue.
Incentive charts for healthy living
We all know about rewards charts for toilet training, for encouraging good behavior, and to celebrate milestones but have you ever considered using an incentive chart for food?
One that promotes eating a balanced diet, encourages drinking lots of water and gets kids up off the couch and onto their feet? Kids love being rewarded and receiving praise for making good choices.
Setting up your incentive chart
So how can you go about setting up an incentive chart for your little ones? There are a number of ways that can work. It could be as simple as a large sheet of card using good old-fashioned stickers or a whiteboard, which sets out a daily plan. You could also opt for something a little more structured such as a magnetic chart. Have you heard of a HealthyChart?
Everyday together you can use it to plan a day’s worth of meals and snacks and required intake of fluids. How much fruit, how many serves of vegetables, and fun activities.
Now only will this help them learn more about food and the huge variety of choices on offer, but you’ll soon find that they will start doing the planning for themselves. They can even use it to place the magnetic images of food and drink onto the chart as they progress throughout the day. It can almost become a game.
They will soon be planning without even thinking and when their day is over and they have completed what they set out to achieve not only can they be rewarded with praise but also a great sense of achievement. And that is priceless.
Are they eating a balanced diet?
With school lunches now a part of many family lives, we have a little more control over what is consumed each day but unless we can teach our kids about getting the mix right it won’t ever become part of a healthy lifestyle.
Are they getting enough fluids?
Pop-top bottles and juice boxes are very popular. Their sugary contents hit the spot every time. But what it can also hit is that button that sends them into a wild, crazy, sugar-high frenzy that is just way too much to handle.
The alternative? Water. Yes boring plain old water, which is very hard to sell to a child. You can always jazz it up with a squeeze of orange, a few frozen grapes or even some fresh strawberries. Whatever your secret method, each glass enjoyed takes kids one step closer to completing their daily intake and their chart gets that one extra tick of achievement.
Are they up and about enough each day?
Don’t think of exercise as making your kids run around the block. Fun activities like skipping, playing totem tennis, walking the dog or even kicking a footy around are perfect ways to get them moving. The more they do, they more they will want to do and they won’t even know how good it is for them.
Why it works
Rewards charts work. When families are busy and kids are tired, having plans and routines in place help to streamline the day. Parents can see exactly what their kids are eating, drinking and getting up to and when kids are involved in planning meals you’ll enjoy the added calmness and control during dinnertime. The obvious benefits of health and well being will be self-evident and kids will feel like they are in control. With nearly 25 per cent of children and adolescents currently living an unhealthy lifestyle now is the time to turn that around.