How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy
Eating habits form when we are young. We eat with our families and we learn from our families.
Eating habits can pave the way towards good health or they can pave the way towards obesity, diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, and other health problems.
Getting your kids to eat healthy may seem like a challenge. I want to review 5 basic tips with you today that can help your children build a healthy lifelong connection to their food.
1. Kids Learn By Watching – This is especially true in the first 7 years.
Kids learn more by watching than by listening. They can tell when you are happy, mad or sad. They also know if you are enjoying the food you are eating or not.
If you are wanting them to eat their broccoli you had better start by eating some yourself. I also recommend sound effects. When you are oohing and ahhing with pleasure over your vegetables it makes them curious.
For a short time, my mom had a part-time job doing food demos. One of the complaints I heard from her repeatedly was about how parents made decisions for kids before the kids could decide for themselves. For example, one day she was showcasing kale chips. When a child came up to her table and asked what it was and she replied Kale chips, the parent came up behind the child so quickly and said, “oh he won’t eat that.” Then the parent would make some negative comment about kale scrunch up their face and walk away. My mom who had no vested interest in the food she was serving would get so upset and say to me, “How does the kid know if he likes it or not, he didn’t even try it.” Be very aware of the messages you are sending out to your kids about food.
2. Feed Children Regularly
Getting in the habit of eating at regular meal times each day is still better than snacking or grazing all day long.
Some kids might be picky eaters but it’s best not to Pigeon hole them as such. I had a girlfriend who said her 4-year-old was picky and seemed to only be hungry for dessert. Yet when his grandma came out to stay with them and prepared 3 square meals per day the child sat down and ate.
My girlfriend admitted that she had become lax with preparing regular meals because more often than not her child wouldn’t eat them. She said that they had taken on a grazing behavior.
Children grow and move through stages so it’s good to not let behaviors of the past dictate the future. Kids and adults do better on schedules and routines.
3. Involve Kids In Food Preparation
If there is one thing that kids want it’s to be included. Children have this effervescence about them. A bubbling curiosity towards everyone and everything. Take advantage of that curiosity as a way to introduce them to all types of foods. You can add value to your day-to-day interaction by involving your children in food preparation activities.
Research shows that children who are involved in shopping and cooking are healthier and more adventurous eaters.
Preparing food at home lowers the fat, salt, and calorie count dramatically when compared to restaurant meals.
Although it might be easier to hand your child the cell phone while you are grocery shopping you are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect them to their food.
Kids want to explore and create. When they help create a meal it appeals to every sense they have so of course they will be more willing to try it.
4. Variety Is Best
It’s best to start early on with lots of variety. When a baby is born he or she has all five tastes none of which is more dominant to the other. Anything and everything goes. When kids are young there this a wide-open palate to experiment with. The older a child becomes the more difficult it will be for their palate to adjust. That’s because their taste buds become sensitized to the foods they perceive as good.
Since kids are curious it’s best to present them with foods over and over again that they can manipulate, prepare and sample for themselves. I know it’s easy to get worn down and simply give your child what you know he or she will eat but that doesn’t help you or them in the long run.
Let them figure out that rice isn’t always white. Rice comes in many forms, white, brown, black, wild.
They may prefer white rice but they may try the other types if they are involved in the preparation or cooking process.
The same with potatoes, lots of colors, lots of tastes.
As a parent, it is easy to become defeated as your cooking attempts get kicked to the curb with one negative grunt or sour face. It’s best to not take it personally. Your child is experiencing the world. Think of them as little explorers. It’s ok if your roasted red beets get spit back out at dinner, the next week buy golden ones and cut them up differently.
5. No Doesn’t Mean No Forever
Just because a child says he or she doesn’t like something doesn’t mean that they won’t try it again in a different form.
They may come to like it if they see the food item presented in a book, nursery rhyme, a video or a song. After all, Peter Rabbit ate lettuce, peas, and beans. If It’s good enough for Peter it just might be good enough for little Ethan.
One day my son Bralio found a book at the library called How to Make a Pancake. He was so enthralled with it we took it home and promptly made pancakes following the directions from the book. He was over the moon with his creation and ate a stack of seven, yes, seven pancakes! Previously when I had made blueberry pancakes and slapped them down in front of him he would only eat between 1 and 2 pancakes.
He simply wasn’t invested in those pancakes. By getting him involved it was a complete game changer.
Something similar happened with guacamole. I had offered him guacamole several times with no interest. Then one day we found the “Guacamole song” by Dr. Jean on YouTube. He went absolutely bananas for that song and would dance around to it. After a week or so he was helping me make guacamole and eating it by the spoonful’s.
Wishing you many adventures in Healthy Eating!