Five Tips for Getting Your Kids On the Healthy Eating Bandwagon
You’ve heard it a million times: your family needs to be eating healthy. Unfortunately, though, the authorities telling you to focus on healthier meals probably have never seen the incredible whining and manipulation skills many kids possess! When you’re trying to get healthier, your family can be a major stumbling block. And if you’re cooking macaroni and cheese while simultaneously trying to make a more healthy-savvy meal for yourself, the temptation to abandon your healthy plans can be overwhelming. You need to get your kids on the healthy eating bandwagon – both for their own sake and for the sake of your diet. Here are five tips for getting your kids on the healthy eating bandwagon…without tears, stress and drama.
1. Start Early
Here’s a dirty little secret about nutrition and kids: if you never give your child cookies, candy, or ice cream, she’ll never crave them. The absolute best way to ensure your child has healthy eating habits is to start early. You don’t have to do what other parents are doing, and the fact that all the other kids on the playground get unhealthy foods doesn’t mean your child has to! Resist the urge to give your child unhealthy foods, and you’ll be rewarded with a child who never wants them in the first place.
2. Give Choices
It’s easy for adults to forget how hard it is to be a kid. But think about how frustrated you’d be if someone told you what you couldn’t and couldn’t eat! Children love it when parents give them more autonomy. One of the most effective ways to encourage your child to eat healthy foods is to encourage him to make his own choices. Don’t tell him he’s having carrots for dinner. Ask him, instead, whether he wants carrots, broccoli, or cauliflower.
3. Institute a One-Bite Rule
Nutritionists say that kids need to try foods as many as 20 times before they actually like them. When kids encounter unfamiliar dishes, they don’t always understand that food that “looks bad” can still taste good. Some kids may even refuse to acknowledge new items as food! Get around this by requiring your child to eat one bite of each new food – but no more. Your child will be grateful that he doesn’t have to eat lots of food he hates, and you’ll rest easy knowing that the one-bite rule gives your kid a chance to try – and eventually like – healthy dishes.
4. Make Food Together
When kids help out in food preparation, they’re more likely to enjoy the food they’ve helped prepared. Make cooking fun, by singing songs or dancing together, and elicit input from your child. When cooking is a family project, eating becomes one, too.
5. Make Food Pretty
Kids are strange creatures. They may reject food based solely on shape, texture, or color. You can circumvent this by serving “pretty” food. Try using cookie cutters to put food in the shape of hearts or stars. Use food coloring to turn “ugly” green items into “pretty” red ones, and don’t be shy about using sprinkles (particularly the sugar-free kind). It might not be a perfect solution, but broccoli embellished with a few sprinkles is always better than no broccoli at all!