The grocery stores are filled to the brim with high-calorie foods that have little to no nutritional value. But between commercials and picky palates, it is probably hard to get your children to leave the family-size pack of chicken nuggets alone as you pass the frozen food aisle.
Luckily, with a bit of creativity and a lot of patience, it is possible to get your kids to like healthy food.
Be a Role Model Yourself
You know the drill. You tell your children to do as you say and not as you do, but they’re all about the “monkey see, monkey do” philosophy. You can tell your children to put back the potato chips until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re routinely downing a bag of them on your own, your children are going to want to imitate you and do the same thing.
By changing your diet to reflect healthier choices, you are setting a good example and making it more likely that your children will decide to do the same thing.
Keep Lots of Healthy Options on Hand
Make a list of the healthy items your child already knows and loves and keep them around as often as possible.
Replace the cookies in your pantry with dried fruit, nuts, or other healthy items, and switch out the calorie-laden juices in the refrigerator for flavored water.
String cheese, organic granola bars, and other single-serve snacks are a great way to let your children choose their own food while still having control over what goes into their bodies.
Let the Kids Help You Cook
Sometimes kids just want to feel more involved. Try deciding on a few options for them to choose between before you go to the grocery store. Take the kids with you and let them pick out the ingredients. Then, get them to help in the kitchen.
They can help with salads or other age-appropriate tasks, and they may be more likely to eat it if they feel they helped contribute.
Never Use Food as a Reward or Punishment
It can be tempting to celebrate a big game win with pizza or cake. Some people send the kids to bed without dinner if they act up or make them clean plates when they don’t want to eat.
While these tactics have been used by parents for decades and by no means make someone a bad parent, there is also new research showing that using food as reward or punishment can cause weight problems or even disordered eating in the future.
Celebrate with movies, game nights, or other fun activities and find alternative consequences for negative behavior.
Get Sneaky About It
You can always use the good, old-fashioned trick of hiding healthy food inside the not-so-healthy ones.
Try making lasagna with lots of cheese, but also lots of spinach hidden between the layers.
Cauliflower is a great substitute for macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes, and younger kids aren't likely to notice the slight changes in taste or consistency.
Pizzas are another good option. Go traditional with veggies for a dinner pizza, or make a dessert pizza with cream cheese and fresh fruit.
Some parents even use food coloring in healthy foods to make it a color their kids enjoy.
Turn Your Food Into Art
Even grownups can enjoy making food art. Use fruit to make faces and designs on pancakes or waffles for breakfast.
Use cookie cutters to create unique shapes in some foods. Broccoli can become trees for a tiny dinosaur family created from mashed potatoes, peas or any other food you're having.
Consider How You Talk to Them About Food
When your children make good food choices, point it out and praise them. However, if they make unhealthy choices, don’t call them bad or restrict them. Instead, offer healthier alternatives that are just as delicious.
Buy Some Treats
Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to buy healthy treats. Hampton Creek makes dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan cookie dough in traditional flavors like chocolate chip and sugar. While you shouldn’t let the kids down the whole jar—it’s safe to eat raw—in one sitting, a treat now and then will show them that eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating “yucky.”
By employing some of these tips and tricks in your everyday routines, you are likely to have more success in getting your kids to make healthy choices. Just remember, patience is a virtue.
Kids are stubborn, so you have to be just as stubborn.
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