Many families are becoming convinced that eating clean, organic vegetables and fruits and removing processed foods from their diets is essential. The switch to this kind of eating can be difficult for adults – but what about the kids?
Here are 4 STRATEGIES TO ENCOURAGE YOUR KIDS TO EAT HEALTHY
1. ELIMINATE THE SUGARY DRINKS AND SNACKS BETWEEN MEALS.
As I look back on the days that my children were toddlers, I now feel guilty for the endless cups of juice they drank and the constant use of snacks, such as cheerios and goldfish, to keep them occupied — church, Target, the park, the doctor’s office–you get the picture. No wonder they weren’t that interested in the food at meals! I had filled them up on snacks that lacked any nutrition but kept their little bellies full. There is nothing wrong with a snack between meals, but keep it nutritious.
2. GROW YOUR OWN FOOD and/or TAKE YOUR CHILDREN SHOPPING WITH YOU.
We began growing most of our food about 4 years ago. We had always had a garden with tomatoes and squash, but now we eat from our garden year round. The children have a vested interest in this food. They plant it, weed it, water it and harvest it. It’s difficult not to want to eat something that you’ve been exposed to at this level. They take pride in their the results of their labor. If you are unable to grow your own food, then take your children grocery shopping with you. Allow them to pick out a vegetable or two. It is good for them to see food in its raw state, understand where it comes from (especially if you buy from local farmers at the farmer’s market), and have a choice in what they eat.
3. COOK WITH YOUR CHILDREN
Even if it’s just stirring the pot, children love to help in the kitchen. My rough and tumble 5-year olds consistently grab a step stool so they can watch, or measure or stir. My 9 year-old loves to make omelets by himself that his own hens have layed. Even after naming the roosters that eventually end up in the oven, the children love to know that the food they are cooking comes from the fruit of our farm. My teenage daughters keep the cookie jar full and often prepare the dinners if I have a crazy day or get stuck at the farm. And you can bet that if they help prepare it, they will eat it.
4. INSIST THEY TRY A SMALL HELPING OF EVERYTHING ON THE TABLE.
When I was growing up, my mom had a “no thank-you helping” rule. IF you didn’t want a particular food at the table you still had to take a “no thank-you” helping. I am sure that there are many foods that I still wouldn’t like today if my mother had not made me try them over and over again. Research has shown that when children are repeatedly exposed to food they don’t like, they will eventually learn to eat it. It doesn’t have to be their favorite food, but they do need to be able to eat it. We have employed this technique with our children and have found they will eat anything put on their plate. Enjoying a variety of food assures that your child is receiving a good balance of nutrients. It also makes you and your children much better guests when invited to a friend’s house. Your hostess will not need to fret, because you can assure her that your family will enjoy any food she wishes to prepare.