It can be rather difficult to get kids to eat healthy foods these days. Real, whole foods seem to be their least favorite and they would rather eat candy, cookies, ice cream, cakes, and all the other junk than sink their teeth into something good for them. It is even harder when society teaches them to eat foods not good for them. These societal lessons can be learned via television, commercials, school cafeterias, and even family events. Junk food is readily and easily available – and often cheaper than real food!
So what can a parent do to encourage their kids to eat healthier?
Fortunately there are some ways we can get our kids to eat healthier without stressing the whole family. Some involve how we cook, some involve how we shop and some even involve how we eat, whichever the way, you can do it, and have your kids eating more vegetables and fruits.
photo credit: woodleywonderworks
One way is to make the healthier foods taste good. They have many tasty competitors on the market so taste is important. There are a lot of ways you can do this without making them unhealthy. You can add cheese to a lot of foods to make them taste good. Most vegetables would be good with cheese, just melt a bit of cheese and pour it on top of the veggies.
You can also add natural sweeteners to foods like raw honey, sucanat or stevia instead of using refined sugars. There are spices you can add to food too that do not have any MSG or salt in them. You have to read the ingredients carefully, but it will make the food you eat healthy and yummy. This requires a bit more work on the part of a parent.
Get them involved in the kitchen. When kids participate in the cooking of a dish, they will often eat it, even if it’s something that they may have turned their nose up at previously. Most kids love to help out in the kitchen. If you can be patient and give them child sized tasks, they might turn out to be really great helpers – and eaters!
You can also encourage them to eat fruit, especially their favorites. This isn’t usually too difficult to do because many kids like fruit more than veggies – fruit is sweet and/or sour and these are two tastes kids love. One thing you can do is switch up the fruits available to them. Get some apples and oranges one week, grapes and pears another week, and plums and peaches another week. By switching it up they are more apt to get a variety of nutrients. Put them in a big bowl on the kitchen table or counter and make them accessible for snacks.
Another tactic that works is to eat healthy foods yourself. Like it or not we are our kid’s role models and if we want them to behave a certain way, we should behave that way as well. Whether it be foods we eat, things we say or the actions we take, they are going to learn from us. So, make sure you have healthy foods on your plate at meal time, and they see you eating them.
There is a lot to say about how you shop. If you want to eat healthier, you have to shop healthier. The first thing to do is to not go when you are hungry or craving. When you do that you will fill the cart with everything sugary you can find! If you only buy healthy foods and snacks, that’s all you can fill your fridge and pantry with. Kids are going to grab what’s available when they’re hungry. If cut up fruit, veggies and yogurt, cheese and nuts are available when their tummies rumble, that’s what they’ll eat.
So, shop after dinner or another meal and try to shop around the perimeter of the grocery store to get fresh and healthy foods for your family. You might also try shopping a grocery store that offers a natural and organic area to shop for condiments, and boxed foods.
Last but not least check out some healthy recipes. Cookbooks will inspire you to create healthier menus and sometimes your kids will surprise you. You can also search online for healthy whole foods recipes, some of which are available free. Try out some of the new “sneaky” cookbooks that have ingenious methods of sneaking veggies into common dishes your kids probably already love. For example, The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious.