When meal time rolls around, it can sometimes feel like a battle between you and your kids. You want them to eat healthy foods but all they want is junk food and sweets. Or even worse, you have the picky eater that will only eat the same handful of foods for every meal. Instead of turning dinner time into fight time, why not try these ways to get your kids to eat healthier without a struggle:
- Start Young – Scientists have discovered that food preferences start even before birth. When you are pregnant with your child make sure you eat a variety of healthy foods. I know that pregnant women are known for their odd food cravings, but eating a variety of foods can actually make your baby more likely to try new foods once it is born. Eating a variety of healthy foods while nursing is another way to vicariously introduce food to your baby’s palate. If you think that what you eat doesn’t come out in your breast milk you better think again. It does and it can make a big impact on what your baby will eat on its own. As soon as you start feeding your baby solid foods try to mix it up. Use different textures and flavors to entice your baby to try a variety of new foods. Keep in mind that almost every food will be immediately rejected, so don’t give up. By starting them on a variety of healthy flavors at a young age you make it easier for yourself and them later on.
- Texture Matters – Believe it or not, the way a food feels in your mouth can be just as important as how it tastes. Like smell, texture is a big indicator to the brain of what to expect flavor wise. Think about it- do you like chocolate that is grainy and dry, or smooth and silky? It is the same flavor, just a different texture. If your child refuses to eat a food one way, try a different texture of the same food. For example many kids hate the slimy texture of cooked spinach. However they will quickly eat up fresh baby spinach when it is in salad form. Same flavor, only the texture is different. The same idea goes for apples. If they don’t like apple sauce try the crunch of apple slices or the sponginess of baked apples.
- Set an Example – What you eat matters too, even after they are weaned. Kids are like monkeys, they will eat what they see you eat and will avoid what you avoid. Even if you absolutely can’t stand peas, like me, you should still try to take a bite or two around your kids. They may love the flavor of peas, but if they see you avoiding them they will never give it a fair shot. Try to make your diet the kind of thing you would be happy to see them emulate. If you eat nothing but junk why would you expect them to do anything else?
- Wide Variety – Having a wide variety of food available for your kids is a great way to encourage healthy eating. Like I said, I hate peas; however I love almost every other vegetable. Whenever I make a meal I am sure to include at least a few healthy options. Then if my kids want to avoid the spinach they can eat the asparagus instead or vice versa. By not forcing your kids to make an either or decision you leave them open to making healthy choices that will stand the test of time. Do not make it a battle of wills, instead set appropriate portions and enforce them. By allowing choices you give kids a better chance of making healthy choices outside of your presence.
- Snack Happy – Making snack time healthy, or meal time healthy, is about making it easy. Kids are just like everyone else nowadays, they eat on the run and in a hurry, ready to get back to their games. If your child has to choose between the convenience of a bag of chips or washing, peeling and slicing an apple what will be their choice? Even I would go for the chips! Instead make healthy snacks just as easy as unhealthy ones. Pack up bags of trail mix, prepare fresh fruit and make it palatable to eat healthy even in a hurry.
- Presentation – Making your kid’s food look good is a great way to encourage them to eat it. Think about this: if you get a sloppy meal at a restaurant will you enjoy it as much as the same meal served up on a fancy platter with a mint garnish? Of course not! Looks do matter when it comes to food and the key to good looking food for kids is to have fun with it. Banana butterflies, snail oranges, apple smiles, veggie rainbows and more are all fun ways to make your kids want to eat what you put before them.
- Hit the Trail Mix – As I mentioned before, trail mix is a great option for a healthy grab and go snack. But trail mix is also often expensive and filled with unhealthy foods or foods your children simply don’t like. Instead of wasting food or filling up on junk, make your own trail mixes. For picky eaters you can even use a new tackle box to separate each ingredient in a little cubby hole for the child to pick and choose from. This is great for long road trips and lets you measure out how much of each item your child eats. A tiny pocket of candy coated chocolate can be accompanied by a large serving of dried fruit and almonds.
- All or Nothing – Taking the all or nothing approach with your kids is not healthy or fun for either of you. When you outlaw all junk food or unhealthy snacks you are setting your kids up for failure. Instead take a more balanced approach and try to allow some snacks to break the barriers. It is okay to indulge every once in a while and it teaches your kids how to control their cravings in a healthy way. If they learn to pick the right foods they won’t be drawn to the wrong ones even if they are in easy reach.
- Explain – Especially as your children get older it is important to communicate with them why it is vital to eat healthy. Kids are not dumb. They can get concepts like staying fit and well very early in their lives. If you talk to them about how their food affects their health they are more likely to make good choices down the road. Who knows, they could even help their school mates and friends to make healthier choices as well.
- Don’t Stress – By making meal times a battle you are already hurting your child. Children need to see food as a way to fuel up, not as a reward or punishment. Dessert and snack time should not be a big deal, nor should healthy or unhealthy eating habits. Instead guide your children into wise decisions and help them to make good eating habits. The less stress you focus around eating, the fewer problems your kids will have in that area in the future.
As you can see, there are many ways to help your children eat healthier. It should not be a continual battle between you. Instead make a choice as a family to promote healthier eating and make wise choices. That way you can all live a healthy and happy life.
Blogging for was a natural progression for Allison once she graduated from college, as it allowed her to combine her two passions: writing and children. She has enjoyed furthering her writing career with www.nannyclassifieds.com. She can be in touch through e-mail allisonDOTnannyclassifiedsATgmail rest you know.
Today I’m linking up to Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings!