Healthy eating can be difficult for both adults and children, so don’t be surprised if junior doesn’t respond to new healthy rules if you aren’t playing along, too. Also, if your family has been traveling down the bad nutrition road for a long time now, know that it’s going to take more than a simple u-turn to correct bad eating habits.
Here are some tips to help:
Fruits and Veggies as Snacks and Treats
If you want your family to eat more fruits and vegetables, make them more accessible. Offer afternoon snacks of vegetable sticks and light ranch dressing or leave a bowl of fruit out on the kitchen table for quick eating.
You might even give your children some “power” by telling them that they have to ask you for a cookie, but they can eat an apple, orange or grapes any time they want. This won’t work for every family, but it helps to make fruit a “treat.” Consider serving desserts consisting mostly of unsweetened fruit and small amount of light ice cream, whipped cream or even yogurt.
All You Can Eat
If your family are members of the “clean plate club,” un-enroll now. Children should learn to eat until they are full, not when all the food on their plate is gone. Encourage your children to drink water or milk with their meals and to wait a few minutes before having seconds.
And to avoid throwing out perfectly good food left uneaten on plate, serve smaller portion sizes. You can always come back for more.
Dressing Up the Vegetables
No one is denying that we should all be eating more vegetables with our meals. The problem is that they can be bland. Make veggies tasty by incorporating different spices, and a touch of butter.
Consider serving carrots with basil or make a tomato salad with balsamic vinegar and a few pieces of mozzarella cheese. Broccoli is surprisingly good with a bit of marinara sauce and folks have been known to create “fake mashed potatoes” out of cauliflower. Allow kids to experiment with different condiments with their veggies. If ketchup helps them to eat more vegetables, all the better.
No TV Dinners
Avoid eating meals in front of the television and instead, dust off the dining room table. In addition to creating a forum for family conversations, you’ll be teaching your kids to better understand when they are full rather than just mindlessly eating while being entertained by Pat Sajack and Vanna White.
All Together Now
One way to get kids interested in eating healthy is to let them help make dinner. Start by letting your kids plan a menu. You might be a little lenient for the first try out by allowing some less-than-healthy choices.
If your child enjoys cooking in the kitchen with you, he or she will be more apt to try it again. For the second go around, give them a cookbook to look through and find something that looks interesting or something they haven’t had before. If they have a hand in making it, they will be more likely to eat it.
Make Food Fun, but Not Too Fun
Some experts warn that withholding food as punishment may cause some children to worry that they will go hungry and will in turn eat more than they should. Also, offering dessert for those who eat their vegetables tend to cause children to value one food over another. Perhaps that is why Cookie Monster eats more than just cookies these days on Sesame Street.
Play with Your Food
Some snacks are great fun with little ones. Cut celery sticks, fill with peanut butter and dot with raisins – now you’ve got ants on a log! Roll an all-natural hotdog in some bread dough – you’ve got pigs in a blanket. Cut up chunks of strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew melon, blueberries and blackberries – stack them on a skewer and you have a rainbow! Use your imagination and look online to see what others have done to make food fun.
Some parents complain that all their children will eat are chicken nuggets. That might be because that is all that is ever served to them. No parent wants to fight with their kids about food, but by taking the easy road by always giving them what they want, doesn’t solve the problem.
Encourage yourself to provide a variety of meals each week and you’ll find that you’ll have less picky eaters. Try out new vegetables or new ways to prepare them. Go for hamburger one night and chicken the next. Keep your kids guessing. If one dish doesn’t win them over, take note of it, but don’t force your children to eat it. It will only cause them to not trust you. Offering a variety of food will combat picky eaters.