Getting Your Kids To Eat Healthy Doesn’t Have To Be a Battle
If you struggle to get your children to eat healthy, you’re absolutely not alone. In this modern era of over-processed “foods” and beverages so sweet they’re practically syrup, it’s essential to develop a healthy eating regimen with your children while they’re still young. Of course, this has proven to be difficult -- especially if you have picky eaters. Sometimes it seems like your child would rather go hungry than eat a piece of broccoli. If you’re having a hard time getting your child to develop healthy eating habits, here’s what you should know.
It’s unreasonable to expect your child to eat solely healthy foods -- that’s why it’s all about creating a healthy balance between what your child wants to eat and what’s actually healthy for them. The Venn diagram of “want to eat” and “should eat” may not ever perfectly overlap, but there are simple ways to improve the balance. For instance, here's a good, nutritionist-approved rule of thumb: provide snacks a few hours after one meal ends but one to two hours before the next meal begins. And if your child manages to finish a full serving of vegetables but finishes the meal with a scoop of ice cream, consider it a win. And while the food pyramid model has become obsolete, keep in mind that it’s critical for a child to receive proper amounts of protein, fruits, veggies, dairy, and grains throughout their developing years.
If you have an exceptionally picky eater, try some of these tips to get your child more accustomed to the idea of eating healthy foods.
- Involvement: Take your child on trips to the grocery store and have an open discussion with them about what’s healthy and what may not be as healthy. The key is to make it sound educational as opposed to sounding like another lecture. You don’t want to make your child feel like they’ve done something wrong.
- Be Proactive: Take advantage of your child’s hungry moments. Snacking is a healthy part of any young person’s diet, so stockpile nutritious snacks you know they enjoy. If they come home from school or soccer practice and are raring for a snack to refuel, offer them healthy snack bars, hard boiled eggs, or carrots instead of a chocolate bar or sugar-filled cereal. The hungrier your child is, the more likely they’ll be to eat whatever’s put in front of them.
- Accommodation: It may seem counterintuitive, but keeping a bottle of every kid’s favorite condiment -- ketchup -- is a surefire way to get your child open to the idea of trying new foods. If your child doesn’t like green beans, maybe they’ll like them once they’re offered with ketchup. It’s definitely odd, but kids have strange tastes, and desperate times call for ketchup!
- Availability: Keeping a wide variety of healthy snack options in your pantry at all times will definitely lead your kid to make better decisions about food. If there are only healthy options available, your child will surely warm up to the healthy varieties as time goes on.
- Creativity: Finding innovative ways to incorporate healthy foods into your child’s diet is a great way to get your picky eater to eat healthy, potentially without even realizing it. Just take a food that your child loves and find a lower-calorie version. Pizza, for example, has countless variations that make for healthier alternatives than traditional, grease-covered pepperoni pizza. There are recipes available for cauliflower crust, whole grain crust, and a virtually endless list of potential toppings. But it’s not just pizza -- there are healthier alternatives to almost any food you can think of -- it just takes a bit of research and kitchen creativity.
Ultimately, getting your children to develop healthy eating habits starts outside the kitchen, and communication is key. By maintaining an atmosphere of positivity, acceptance, and open discussion in your household, you’ll be able to light the path for your child to become confident in themselves and make the right choices about their health for the rest of their lives.