Eating can actually be healthy and fun at the same time, but try telling a child this truth and you are likely to get some push back. In fact, when we wrote Transitioning Your Family to More Healthy Nutrition, we got some push back ourselves. “That’s all well and good, but what if our kids just aren’t buying it?”
With easy access to fast foods and other tasty cholesterol-rich snack items, helping your child see the importance of eating healthy and natural food may seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, it’s time to get your kids on board with healthy eating.
Since access to unhealthy food choices are easy and plentiful, what exactly is the best way to instill healthy eating habits for your children? The answer is hard work. It will be hard work for a while, but the dividends will be worth it and these ideas will help you get past the push-back.
Demonstrate this Truth: Healthy Foods Actually Taste Good
Lets face it. Fast food and junk food taste good. However, we all know that fast food typically consists of high-salt, high-sugar, and high-calorie food items in a very convenient package. Even those little apple packets are full of preservatives! For parents who are concerned about their children’s eating habits, it’s important to demonstrate this truth: healthy foods actually taste good.
- Set the example. Eat the healthy stuff you want your kids to eat. If your kids don’t see you enjoying healthy foods, they will be convinced that everything healthy tastes nasty!
- Make sure it actually tastes good. (Use smart preparation techniques. Don’t boil cabbage and expect your kids to jump up and down. A nice sweet cole slaw is a better choice.)
- Make sure it actually looks good. Attractive food is much more likely to end up in their mouths instead of in the trash can.
- Talk it up. A little positive talk will go a long way. So will a dose of nutrition information when used sparingly.
The reality is that healthy food can actually taste great, but it is up to you to help your kids see that as fact.
Serving Healthy Food Takes a Bit More Time and Effort
Getting your children to love eating healthy food may require more effort and extra planning than driving through the nearest restaurant. When you get home from the grocery store, or soon after, plan to spend an hour or so preparing food to take when you are on-the-go. This will help you resist the fast food temptation. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Wash all the fruits and vegetables right away.
- Slice up carrot sticks and celery sticks, and invest in On-The-Go Peanut Butter and Hummus packs. Put these in small zipper pouches. These re-useable ones are perfect.
- Soak apple slices in lemon for a natural preservative, and store the slices in baggies to grab and go.
- Keep a supply of apples, oranges, peaches, and plums or other hand-held fruits ready and washed. These can be eaten out of hand with the peels on wherever you may be.
- Slice up fruits and veggies into cool shapes. Red peppers sliced correctly will look like flowers. A crinkle cutter will give your crisp veggies a neat zig-zag effect. Don’t underestimate your kids! I never dreamed my kids would enjoy munching on red peppers and cherry tomatoes! However, I started presenting them in fun ways and making them available in place of the junk. It is now common for my children to prefer these options as their snack of choice.
- You can still buy pre-packaged. You can find small packs of nuts, organic dried fruit, and applesauce packs for on-the-go at many grocery stores.
Be Creative When you Introduce Your Kids To New Fruits and Veggies
Who likes boring? Our kids are so used to getting everything in the form of entertainment – it can’t hurt to serve healthy foods in an entertaining way. Especially when you are introducing something new.
- Create stories about the fruits and vegetables they consume, to make things more interesting.
- Create cool scenes or “food art” on their plates.
- Find fun ways to package your child’s on-the-go veggies and fruit.
- Use dips. A little ranch, hummus, honey mustard, or peanut butter can work wonders!
We’ve got more creative ideas in 10 Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Eat Vegetables and Healthy Foods.
Let Your Kids Help You Cook
According to most healthy eating advocates, every child should be taught how to cook, both in school and at home, and not simply be fed with slogans about good nutrition. Make it a practice to involve your kids in the kitchen.
- Guide your kids through a recipe they can make themselves! When my son came home from coop with a homemade lasagna he prepared himself, helped bake it, and served it our family he was so proud!
- Older kids can chop the veggies, sear the meat, mix up the sauce, or grate cheeses. Use these fun child-safe knives to make chopping accessible and safe for younger children too!
- Younger ones can help mix the salad dressing, toss the salad, wash the veggies, or gather ingredients from the fridge or pantry.
- Have your kids help prepare and serve a healthy snack supper once or twice a month.
Never give up in your quest to help your children find the fun in healthy eating. It may take you more than 10 or 15 tries before your kids start appreciating the perks of eating legumes, beans, cabbage, squash, lettuce and other greens. It’s worth the effort.