How To Make Kids Eat Healthy
While you may see a dinner plate full of vegetables, vitamins and tasty goodness, your child may well see the devil’s food and point-blank refuse to eat. For anyone who recognizes this scenario, we feel your pain as being a parent of a picky eater is no fun come mealtime.
You want your child to not only get all the nutrients they need but to also develop good eating habits that will see them right into adulthood. So, if you have a kid that would rather eat ketchup straight out of the bottle than even consider chowing down on the balanced meal you’ve just cooked them, read on. As we’ve put together 10 tasty ways to make your kids eat more healthily.
1. Lead The Way
It may not always feel like it, but your kids look up to you and especially at a young age will follow what you do. And this applies to how you eat so when it comes to tackling a fussy eater, or just to get them to eat more healthily, it’s important you lead by example.
Eating well and being seen to enjoy a wide range of fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains will help to influence your child. And this also counts when it comes to any negative eating behavior, so eat at regular mealtimes, limit that junk food and don’t have too many sweet treats in the house. And if you’re on a weight-loss diet, try to keep the calorie-counting conversations away from junior’s ears so they don’t pick up on potentially negative food messages that could influence how they eat.
2. Get Them Involved
The more engaged your children are in mealtimes the better, as kids loved to be involved…especially if it means they can get elbow deep in a mixing bowl! It also means you can naturally talk about food, and they can learn about healthy eating while you can also pick up on any food-related issues or signals.
Whisking eggs, mashing potatoes, washing the salad, even setting the table can be great fun and gives you and your little ones a bit more quality time too. And when it comes to eating, think about how the kids can be directly involved too – a good option is to go for ‘build your own’ meals such as fajitas, healthy pizzas and stuffed pitta bread. Now, what kid doesn’t like to get their hands dirty?
3. Shake Up Your Presentation
Knowing your little one’s dislikes and food foibles is going to help you get your food presentation just right. Often a fussy eater is actually turning away from the texture or color of a food, rather than the taste so a little creative cooking can go a long way. If certain vegetables are an issue, try chopping them up and blending into a tasty pasta sauce, or change the shape you cut them into – even taking the skin off, for example with a cucumber, can make a difference to whether your child puts it in their mouth or not.
4. Color It Up
Kids love color and this can be a secret weapon in your mission to get them to eat healthily.
By eating a rainbow of colors when it comes to fruit and veg, they are getting a super-boost of nutrients every day so make this work for you. Add texture to the mix and you could well be onto a winner. As well as bringing color to their dinner plate, you could also turn healthy food into cool snacks. Think frozen berries, grapes or chunks of pineapple as summer treats, while super crunchy raw sugar snap or freshly podded peas can make a delicious and nutritious snack.
5. Create Healthy ‘Junk Food’
As an adult, you get the final say on the weekly shop so resist the urge to pack the trolley with unhealthy food. But this doesn’t mean your kids have to go without those fast food treats, just make your own junk food the healthy way. Popcorn is quick and easy to do (specially if you have a popcorn machine at home) as well as awesome fun, and so are home-made slushies and ice-lollies, using chopped up fresh fruit. Burgers and pizzas don’t have to be off the menu either, just make your own from fresh ingredients and serve with roasted sweet potato skins, sour cream or home-made coleslaw. Delish.
6. Go Dip Crazy
A good dip or sauce can get the kids to see healthy food in a whole new way – and who doesn’t love the sticky finger mess dipping creates. A healthy but tasty dip or sauce can also disguise a problematic food or help you to introduce a new vegetable or dish to a skeptical child. Buy sauces and dips with lower sugar if you can or go for broke and make your own. Ketchup, mayonnaise, ranch dressing, barbecue sauce are all pretty easy to make and the kids can help too, saving you the elbow ache from all that whisking!
7. Jazz Up Those Dinner Plates
Food doesn’t have to be boring, so go wild when plating up your meals. You don’t have to have a degree in art to create a food masterpiece, and a crazy plate of food is going to make your kid smile…and eat. Think face shapes, use crazy cookie cutters on toast or for shaping their potato mash, or recreate a scene from their favorite movie (who wouldn’t want a food dinosaur on their dinner plate?) Giving food creative names will also help to make them sound less dull and boring – baby trees (broccoli), mud sauce (gravy) or gold nuggets (sweet corn) should certainly liven up mealtimes.
8. Re-Think Your Table Rules
Many of the typical ground rules for the dinner table – clean plates or no pudding if you don’t finish all your vegetables, for example – can put too much pressure on an already food resistant kid so re-think how you emotionally control your children at mealtimes.
Boundaries do need to be set, but they need to be less restrictive and more positive, so you are supporting rather than forcing your child to eat. So, instead of insisting they eat everything, set a ‘one-bite’ rule for each item on their plate, which is more manageable and less intimidating for your little one. And giving your kid the freedom to finish eating when they are full, rather than when their plate is clean, means they are learning how to listen to their own hunger, setting a healthy habit for life.
9. Eat Together And Have Fun
Mealtime shouldn’t be a chore so for your kids’ nutritional health and your own sanity, make the dinner table fun! Eat together as a family, every night if you can but if that’s not possible then you should aim for at least once a week.
Get your children involved in devising the menu, setting the table, prepping the food, even the washing up will make them feel involved and contributing to it all. If they have cooked any part of the meal, let them know how delicious it is (even if it’s not). As a family, you could also aim to try a new food item or recipe once a week and discuss what you thought, giving plenty of airtime to the younger members at the table.
10. And Finally…Don’t Try So Hard
While it can be really frustrating to get a fussy eater to eat better food, putting on too much pressure will only make things worse, and you could eventually find yourself at a food impasse with a very stubborn kid. Dial down the heat and cut yourself some slack, as ramping up the coaxing, coddling and even begging is unlikely to work, and could well make a bigger deal out of what was initially a much smaller problem.
Instead, accept what it is you are doing – buying, cooking and providing delicious and healthy food for your child, whatever that may be to float his hunger boat. So, if a glass of milk with a cheese and tomato wholemeal sandwich is going to get him to eat, put aside the three-bean and vegetable stew and be happy. You’ll get an empty plate and in their own way, your child is starting to make their own healthy food choices.
- 15 Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Better – Parents