Getting our kids to eat healthier food is no doubt a big challenge. With all of the junk food everywhere, often disguised as healthy food, it’s no surprise that obesity, chronic illness, and cognitive impairment (ADD/ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities) in our children is at an all-time high.
It is possible to raise healthy kids and to teach them the difference between healthy food and junk. I’ve been there— it took a while, but over time my kids have learned that healthy food can taste great! Do they eat perfect all the time? No way! But I have to say, they’ve come a long way. My thirteen-year-old now asks for, and even cooks, tons of veggies! His older brother hasn’t had cold breakfast cereal in more than 5 years, and questions how fast food is made on a regular basis! This was not always the case. I’ve learned a lot over the years about how to get kids to eat better. Here are a few of my best tips and tricks!
1. Set a good example
Eat your veggies (and other healthy foods)! Kids notice what adults do—and I’m not just talking about toddlers! Kids of all ages notice our habits, so set a good example. We can’t expect our kids to eat better if we don’t. So, serve healthy food including vegetables at every meal, and show your kids that healthy food can be delicious!
2. A bite a day
Sometimes you’ve got to start slow. It can take 8–10 (or more) tries before a person begins to like a new food! Plus, tastes change over time—you may like a food now that you didn’t like 5 years ago. I personally now love lentils, dry red wine, very dark chocolate, and Brussels sprouts.—I didn’t like any of these ten years ago!
Even if you know that your picky eater doesn’t like certain foods, try giving them one bite on their plate at dinner time. Every day. Ask them to try it—it’s only one bite after all! Build up to a few bites. Over time our palates become more developed, and often times foods that we once disliked become our favorites! This goes for you too, parents! Keep trying new things—you don’t know what you might be missing out on!
3. Let your kids help
Letting your kids help grow, shop, and, cook food gets them invested in the process. Because they are part of the mealtime process, they are more willing to give new foods a try when they are on their plates. Same goes for shopping and cooking.
Kids in general have a natural curiosity and are far more willing to try a food that they played a part in getting that food on the table. My kids help plant and care for our garden vegetables. My youngest likes to help cook too. Let your kids choose a vegetable at the grocery store that they would like to try. Maybe have him or her flip through a cookbook to help decide upon a recipe to make. Or have them help cook dinner. They become proud of their contribution and more willing to eat the meal!
4. Avoid kid’s menus
I know, they are a good deal, but hear me out. Some of the least healthy food served in restaurants is on the kid’s menu—chicken nuggets, mini corn dogs, mac & cheese, and fries. I know. These are kid favorites, they’re inexpensive, and yes, kids will eat it. But serving these hyper-palatable foods on a regular basis teaches our kids to only accept these foods. Plus, most of the time, these items are frozen, processed junk food that isn’t made fresh at the restaurant. I fell for this crap when my kids were little too (most of us do), but honestly, there is no good reason that kids need to be served special “kid” food—at restaurants or at home!
I understand you may not want to order a $22 entrée for your four-year-old. There are options! If you know your child loves pork chops, maybe it’s not a bad idea to order the full entrée and just know you will have leftovers for lunch the next day. More nutritious options are often available as sides or soups, like a sweet potato, side of veggies, or chicken (or other) soup. Another option is to choose a better kids meal option like a burger, and swap the bun and fries for veggies and/or fruit.
Try a few of these ideas and see how it goes. It takes time, but being a healthy adult starts with being a healthy kid!
For more on getting your kids to eat healthy, download
my guide to Getting Kids to Eat Veggies!
Here are healthy recipes that kids love!
Hidden Superfood Meatballs
Hidden Veggie Breakfast Casserole
Superfood Sloppy Joes
Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Chocolate Brownie Waffles
Cinnamon Pumpkin Waffles
Cinnamon Roll Waffles
Easy Low Carb Pancakes
Let me know how it goes! Leave a comment or
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