10 Tips to Get your kids eating healthy
by Debra Mendez, Functional Nutritionist
As a parent & nutritionist, I know how difficult it can be to get your kids to eat well. Between seeing what other kids eat at school and grandparents who constantly bring sweets when they visit- the last thing we want is to act as the “bad guy” and serve our kids something they don’t like.
We want mealtimes to be fun, enjoyable and a time for new discoveries while getting nutrients into our little ones. I believe that our relationship with food starts at an early age so avoiding conflict at meal times is best. There is no use in forcing kids to try the meals we make or in finishing what’s on their plate. This type of parenting at meal times just leads to frustration on both ends. Therefore, I’ve put together some tips for you to make it easier to get your kids to eat healthy. Let’s take a look at them;
1.Keep putting it on their plate. It’s ok if your child doesn’t touch the broccoli the first couple of times you make it. But by the third time, they may just take a bite, and the fourth time, they may like it and eat a whole serving and even ask for more. It takes kids a few times to try something before they decide whether or not they like it. So don’t give up so quickly and continue to put vegetables on their plate. They’ll eventually eat it.
2. Make what they like, how they like it. It’s hard enough to get kids to eat healthy, especially if they know what ice cream and cookies taste like. Keep track of the HEALTHY foods your kids enjoy eating, and how they like them made, then make it! Its as simple as that.For example, my daughter doesn’t like cooked carrots, but she’ll eat them raw, so whenever carrots are being served, we have them raw! 😉
3. Find an alternative. The best thing about the 21st century is that you can find a delicious, healthy alternative recipe to ANYTHING you like to eat. From muffins to pizza, there are lots of recipes out there to make these delicious foods healthy. Kids dont know the difference between gluten free, dairy and sugar free, all they know is flavour. So take the extra step and make your kiddies some healthy alternatives to foods they like.
4. Let them try new foods earlier in the day. Trying to feed your kids a new vegetable or healthy dish when they’re tired and irritable will end up leaving you both frustrated. Just like us, kids need to be in the mood to try something new. Catch them at a good time when they’re not tired like breakfast or lunch.
5. Serve the veg first. Kids are more likely to eat ANYTHING when they’re really hungry. This is your chance to get vegetables into them. Before serving the pasta or chicken fingers, put the salad/ vegetables on the table first. This way they’ll eat their vegetables and they’ll be happy to see the rest of the food when it’s served.
6. Be honest. Hiding veggies in their meals only breaks trust with YOU. Breaking trust leads to picky eating because then they’re aware of your tricks. Again, kids will eventually eat what you put on their plate over time. Show them and name everything that is on their plate so that way they feel safe and confident while they eat.
7. Let them help you in the kitchen. There are endless benefits to letting children help you cook. But when talking about health specifically, this is your chance to not just teach them about healthy ingredients, but TASTE them as their cooking. Children are also naturally proud of the work they accomplish, and are more likely to eat something they made simply because they made it. This is your chance to let them toss all the ingredients in the blender for their smoothie, or to whisk up the salad dressing!
8. They follow by example. Kids mirror everything we do, including our behaviour around food. You cannot expect your child to eat fruits and vegetables if you’re not eating them yourself. If you truly want your kids to eat healthy, you have to be doing so yourself. Eat well, and eat with them so that they can learn from you!
9. Make it fun. Pinterest has endless ideas on how to serve fruits and vegetables in a fun way to kids. From snail shaped apples with nut butter, to banana chocolate giraffes, even cucumber butterflies. Think outside of the box and look for new ways to serve fruits and veggies to your littles.
10. Educate your community. Similar to tip 7, if kids see other kids eating healthy, they’re more likely to adopt the same habit. If you’re hosting kids and parents at your home, this is your chance to lead my example and SHOW other parents the types of foods that are best for children to eat. Similarly if you’re in charge of bringing a dish to a birthday party or school event, be confident to serve things like vegetables, fruit, water instead of pop, healthier crackers, homemade healthy desserts etc.
Getting kids to eat healthy requires a little bit of patience but it’s totally worth it. Kids who constantly eat processed foods become prone to digestive discomforts, learning difficulties and behaviour issues. It is proven that kids who eat a healthy diet are smarter, have longer attention spans, better memory for learning and have a balanced mood. Be patient and you’ll see your little ones thrive!
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