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Did you know that nearly 1 in 3 kids in the United States is overweight or obese? You may think, “Oh, that may be true but doesn’t apply to me. My kid’s fine.” It may be true your child is not obese, but what kinds of foods are they eating? Are they getting the nutrient-rich foods to help prevent sickness possible future diseases and disorders? What our kids eat today will affect their future, and as a parent I feel a huge responsibility to provide daily opportunities for healthy choices. Moreover, it’s my job to make sure my kids are educated about basic nutrition and emphasize its importance for their future health. But how do I get my kids to eat healthy?
I’m so busy there’s not time to prepare healthy whole food meals and snacks for my children all the time.
This is a common thought, and I admit one I’ve had often! There are times I would love to be a full-time, health-conscious chef for my family, but the truth is I have a million other roles to play also. So what can you do? I’ve found that if I plan little steps and goals, things I can implement easily into our weekly routine, we are successful.
Simple ways to get your kids to eat healthy
To start off, make a goal to introduce one of these ideas each week. I warn you not to expect completely smooth sailing, but if you make small changes and space them out, they will be more easily accepted by your children.
1. This week at the grocery store “accidentally” forget to buy your usual cookies or chips.
Then instead buy extra fruits and vegetables and place them in prominent places in the kitchen. For example, put a decorative bowl of oranges, bananas, or lunch box size apples on the counter. Consequently, they'll be easy to grab after an unsuccessful search of the pantry for the favorite cookies.
2. Buy a box of snack sized plastic zip bags, and on Sunday afternoon prep healthy snacks for the week.
Put a serving of grapes in 6 or so bags and a serving of carrots in about 6 different bags. Next, cut apples slices and put them in 6 bags with a drop of lemon juice to prevent browning. Then you can also stock a few bags with raspberries, blueberries, or whatever berry is currently in season. In addition, every week try a new fruit or veggie bag. You can try sugar snap peas, cucumber, celery, grape tomatoes, strawberries, cherries, or whatever inspires you at the store! Finally, stock the fridge with these bags each week, and you have ready to go healthy snacks or a side to throw quickly into a lunch box.
3. Replace the morning sugary breakfast cereal.
First try serving oatmeal with a quick sliced banana or blueberries and pumpkin seeds. Or go for a homemade sugar free breakfast cookie like this one (see link here). I like to make these once every week or two and stick them in the freezer. Then we have a healthy breakfast on hand for those rush days. You know, when you hit your alarm clock too many times, and the child turns hers off and throws it across the room.
4. At dinner offer a leafy green salad, and/or at least one green vegetable.
It’s true kids will not always eat it, but put it in front of them consistently. As a result, if it’s there enough times, and you utilize the have to at least try it rule, they will get used to it. Slowly, you will then find they tolerate, eat, then even enjoy some of your healthier choices. If I’m not used to seeing and eating broccoli at home, why in the world would I choose it of my own accord other places?
5. Make some dinosaur juice
“My kid will not eat vegetables no matter what I try!!” Is this you? While you’re in the process of consistently offering vegetables as a significant portion of your meals, you can also be a little sneaky. Tell the three year old who loves dinosaurs, “Oh, let’s make some dinosaur juice! This is what herbivore dinosaurs love to drink!” Then pull out your blender, pour in almond milk, throw in some fruit, a carrot or two, and a handful of spinach. If the child hasn’t taken a daily vitamin I throw that in there too. Blend it together (I LOVE my high powered blender and use it nearly every day), and voila! Dinosaur juice.
Once some of these other practices are in place, delegate the prep work to the kids if they’re old enough, and involve them in making your grocery store list. You can even have toddlers help prep your snack bags, baking, or any other food prep you need to do. They love to dump things in a bowl or be the big helper who gets things out of the cabinet.
This is just a short list, but a good place to get started to get your kids to eat healthy. Once you’ve tried these tips, get creative. Come up with your own ideas, find healthy meal plans on-line like this one, and involve your kids in the planning, shopping, and food preparation. It’s important to slowly get them accustomed to eating healthy so when faced with the unknown and unhealthy at a friend’s house or a potluck they will instinctively reach for the carrot stick or apple.
Whoa, slow down! There's no way my husband will get rid of his Snickers stash.
Ideally yes, I would purge the house of all processed sugar, white flour, and high-fat red meats. However, that is not quite realistic most of the time, and of course we will splurge every now and then or visit a restaurant and try some cheesy bit of heaven. Perhaps just don’t make it a regular thing you do daily. I love to bake for Christmas and holidays and have certain family recipes I make every year. Do I make them every day? No, of course not.
I also love to try all kinds of foods when I travel, especially local specialties. Be adventurous with new foods, and praise them to hosts. All things considered, it's really a balance. Savor and enjoy your foods, but learn how to keep those healthy fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), nuts, and seeds as your staples and primary part of your family’s diet (watching out for any food allergies of course).
What can you do to get your kids to eat healthy?
First, provide healthy choices at home, and then your family will learn to pay attention to what’s in their food and choose good foods on their own. Second, educate our kids about basic nutrition and healthy food choices. Take a look at my previous blog post "10 Tips to Get Kids Excited About Learning". No one’s perfect (definitely not me!), but it’s the little things that can get your kids to eat healthy. Then won’t you be proud!
Do you have any other quick and easy tips to get kids to eat healthy to add to our list? I know I can use all the help I can get! What works for you and your family we could use as one of our weekly challenges? It would be awesome if you'd submit your tips in the comments section below. I’d love to hear your ideas and successes!
Source: Committee on Nutrition (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics)