It can definitely be a struggle when trying to get your kids to eat healthy. The earlier you introduce healthy foods the better. Otherwise, if their taste buds are used to sweeter tastes then it’s going to be harder to feed them stuff that doesn’t have a pound of sugar in it. Children’s taste buds are much stronger than ours. We lose taste buds over the years, so a certain vegetables can be overpowering to them. It can take a child as many as 6 times to taste something before they end up liking it, sometimes longer than that. Consistency is important. If they only see a food every once in a while, then they’re forced to go out of their comfort zone to try it which most of the time they decide they don’t like it even before they’ve tasted it. So, if you offer the foods more often, it won’t be such a foreign concept to them and they’ll be more likely to try it.
How many of you remember growing up and being told you can’t have dessert until you finish your veggies? Or you can’t leave the table until everything on the plate is gone? This is a common bargaining deal parents have with kids. However, this only gives vegetables a bad name. Kids automatically associate something bad with something good, vegetables being bad and the reward for eating them is good. It’s like telling them they have to clean their room before they can play outside. Chore=reward. Kids are stubborn, much like adults. Who likes being told what to do? Or being given an ultimatum? Instead of making vegetables the bad guy, turn it into a positive thing. Teach them what the foods do for them and you can turn it into a fun little quiz at the end of dinner. For example, teach them how carrots are good for your eyes, oranges are high in vitamin C so they help to fight off colds, almonds are high in calcium which help build strong bones, green vegetables are high in protein which builds strong muscles etc. At the end of dinner you could give them an extra 30min of play time just for remembering what the food does for them. They like to learn and feel smart, so if you repeat this every night at dinner, eventually you will hear them saying “I better eat carrots so I can see better”. Even when you take them to the zoo, they can see the gorillas eating lettuce which is where they get all their protein from and that’s how they are able to build such strong muscles. Take any chance you get to teach them how important it is to eat healthy. But teach don’t preach. If you start preaching how they should be doing this and that instead of explaining why then they’ll shut you off. Instead, you can say “did you know the gorilla is the strongest animal on earth and he eats nothing but vegetables??” Then you can say “I bet that’s how Batman gets so strong.” Slowly but surely they will pick up on it.
It’s best if you lead by example. Kids are smart, they pick up on the smallest things. If they see that you eat your vegetables first instead of last, then they’ll start to do it as well. If you save them for last, then it looks like it’s not the tastiest thing on the plate. And again, you want to make vegetables a positive experience.
Making them a fresh smoothie in the morning is the perfect chance to sneak some leafy greens in their diet. You can make it all fruit and then just add a small handful of spinach or kale. A little bit of spinach is better than no spinach at all, so if you have to use mostly fruit then do it. They won’t even notice the difference. You can also rename the smoothies after their favorite princess or superhero. Or tell them how Spiderman always eats broccoli so he stays strong and can save lives, or how Ariel loves her strawberries because it makes her hair nice and long and shiny.
One of the worst things you can give your kids is soda. Soda is 100% full of chemicals, including a bunch of added sugar which is very detrimental to your health. The rate of obesity in kids is increasing dramatically, and soda is just one of the many causes for it. This also goes along with Kool-aid and other sweetened lemonade and iced tea drinks. You can use flavored water, or even La Croix flavored water which is carbonated water with natural flavoring in it.
Presentation of food is also key because it’s the first opinion they are going to form. If the food looks gross, then they probably won’t eat it. If you turn it into a little smiley face or arrange it to look like a flower, then they’ll just see the picture first and be happy.
Homemade food is always better than restaurant, fast foods or frozen foods. For instance, a homemade pizza is better than a greasy delivered pizza. You can buy pizza dough from the store, pick all the toppings and build the pizza together with your kids and turn it into a fun time. But remember, you’re trying to make a healthier version of this at home. So instead of adding a bunch of pepperoni, sausage and ham, try adding more veggies like sliced tomatoes, red or green peppers, mushrooms, onions, basil and spinach.
Some other food ideas:
Hummus and veggies
Carrots and salsa (instead of chips and salsa)
Celery sticks with almond butter and raisins
Homemade sweet potato baked fries
Homemade banana ice cream with strawberries on top (also cheaper than store bought ice cream)
Black bean or lentil tacos instead of using ground beef – this is an easy replacement, beans and lentils can have a meaty flavor and will soak in the spices you add anyway
BBQ breaded cauliflower bites instead of chicken nuggets
Toast with almond butter and bananas
If you stop buying junk food, then they can’t eat it. I’m sure it will be hard at first and there will be many temper tantrums, but you’re the boss applesauce. Eventually they will forget about it as long as you stay consistent with it. You might think it’s not worth the battle, but it absolutely is. Don’t give up and stay consistent. Just remember, you’re giving them food so that they can be healthy. Everything that goes into our body either feeds disease or fights it. And this begins during childhood.
Owner, Smooth-ease LLC