Broccoli, apples, and squash—oh my! It can be really tough to get kids eating healthy. As a child, I was very fussy. As far as I was concerned, fruits were not a snack and vegetables didn’t belong on my dinner plate. So my poor mother had to cook around my limited palate.
If she had cooked meals chock full of healthy protein and vegetables and gave me no other alternative, would I have eventually come around to healthier meals? Perhaps. That’s one of the tips given by Parents.com. Check out what they have to say about helping kids eat healthier:
1. Don’t be a short order cook. Some parents might make one meal for themselves and another for the kids. Cut that out and try serving meals family style so kids have healthy choices of what to eat. If they really can’t stand mushrooms, they don’t have to eat them—but the other choices on the table can be different vegetables.
2. Make a schedule. Just like adults, kids need to eat every three to four hours. If they have healthy snacks to turn to, they will stay full and not be famished at night—which can cause them to want to eat unhealthy food. (I know I’m guilty of this!) If you’re out and about with your kids, have some healthy snacks on hand.
3. Bite your tongue. In order to make their kids eat vegetables, I think the default is for parents to always say “eat your vegetables.” While this might sound fine, Parents.com says that it might make them want to do the opposite. (Typical!)
4. Try new things. There are so many different ways to prepare healthy meals. If your kid resists straight up steamed broccoli, try putting it in a stir fry or casserole. If they don’t like tomatoes, think about putting them in a taco (yum!) or even an omelet. Try visiting all the different types of food from around the world!
5. Pack it in at breakfast. So many families are too busy running around in the morning to get in a quality breakfast. But this is such a great opportunity to sneak in nutrition—especially whole grains and foods packed with fiber. Try a high fiber cereal or whole grain pancake mix. Double points for putting some fruit in the cereal or oatmeal!
6. Junk food: Don’t buy it! Whenever I’m in the supermarket, I try to live by this rule: If you don’t buy it, you can’t eat it. Keeping tempting junk food out of the house means you have no choices but to eat better. No cookies? Try some (low fat) chocolate milk. No potato chips? Maybe try some of the new flavorful rice cakes out there.
7. Let them help you cook. The more children are involved with preparing a meal, the more likely they might be to get excited about what they’ll be eating. They can even taste it along the way and give their sign off on how it tastes. You can also have them help you pick out food at the supermarket.
8. Allow treats. I’ve heard many nutrition experts say this about dieting: Don’t completely deprive yourself of foods you love. It’s OK to have the occasional brownie—just as long as it’s in moderation. If they mostly eat healthy food, they will recognize that other foods are considered a special treat. I’ve also found that the less junk food you eat the less you will crave it.
9. Dip it! Plain raw vegetables might turn kids off (I know I’m sometimes the same way). But try experimenting with some healthy but delicious dips. You’ve got hummus, (low fat) ranch or Italian dressing, salsa, or yogurt-based dips.
10. Plan your meals. Let’s face it—we’re all super busy. It can be tough to try and throw together a healthy meal every night. But planning ahead might make it easier. Maybe you plan out the meals you’ll make for the week on Sunday when you go food shopping. You can also prepare meals ahead of time and freeze them so you can easily pull them out and reheat.
One piece of advice I would give is not to get frustrated. For myself, my tastes changed over time. I didn’t like carrots when I was five, but I came around to them when I was seven. Kids just may need some time. And remember, there are so many different proteins, fruits, and vegetables out there, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll be able to make delicious meals that they’ll like.
What do you do to get your kids to eat healthy? Tell us in the comments below.