Creating a Healthy Home Food Environment
When little ones are hungry and begging for a snack, we often reach for the closest thing for a quick fix. The problem is, whatever is closest is not always what’s healthiest. But if your home food environment is structured so that healthy foods are easy to access, you’ll find that making good food choices is easy. A healthy home food environment can help your kids make better food choices on their own, too! In this blog post, we’ll talk about what a healthy food environment is, why it’s important, and how you can create one in your own home.
What does it mean to create a healthy food environment?
The idea of a healthy home food environment is simple. It is the idea of setting up your home so that food that is healthy, nutritious, and satisfying is easier to see and reach. Because healthy foods are nearby and prepared, it’s easier to grab them when hunger strikes, making it easier to make a choice that is both quick and healthy.
Why is a healthy food environment important?
When healthy food is available and accessible, you’re more likely to reach for it when you’re hungry! The same goes for children. If healthy food is available in the home and can easily be found when your little one wants a snack, then they’re more likely to eat things like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as part of their snacks or meals. A food environment that supports healthy food choices gives structure to your child’s environment that helps them to learn about healthy and appropriate eating behaviors. It also helps kids to make good choices for themselves when it comes to what they eat, which supports their autonomy.
How to create a healthy food environment at home:
Eating healthy at home starts with shopping smart. Having a grocery list and sticking to it; planning out meals for the week; and stocking up on greens, lean protein, whole grain, and fruits are all great ways to ensure that your grocery trip will be successful in bringing healthy options home for the family. Remember- having healthy foods in the home means that the options for snacks are healthier!
Think about where you place and store your food. If cookies are kept out on the counter, or candy is in a dish on the table, kids are more likely to eat them- even if they’re not hungry. Instead, try putting a bowl of fresh fruit on your counter, and wash/cut some veggies like red pepper, carrots, and celery to keep in the fridge. When kids have access to healthy foods, they tend to eat more of them- without mom even having to tell them to! If you do keep treats in the house, try to keep them out of reach (and eyesight) of little ones, so as not to tempt them!
Cook together. Cooking with kids can be when it comes to gaining competence in the kitchen and learning about food. Creating an environment where kids are comfortable and confident handling and making food helps them to become healthier eaters- and as a bonus, you get some extra help in the kitchen!
Lead by example. When you pick healthy snacks for yourself – like an apple from that bowl on the counter, or some fresh carrot sticks and hummus from the fridge – it encourages kids to do the same. You can also lead by example by eating your vegetables and by cooking at home! Healthy food habits by parents are an important and influential piece when it comes to teaching your child to be a healthy, independent eater. (PS- we’re going to talk more about the importance of parent diet in an upcoming post, so keep an eye out!)
Creating a healthy home food environment is a great way to encourage your kids to eat healthily and make choices that will benefit them and their diets. It also helps create good habits for the long term! We’d love to hear how you make your home food environment unique and useful to you and your family.