Eating healthy is a great concept, right? Well, it may not be for some kids. As a parent, what do you do when feeding fruits and vegetables doesn’t cut it for your child? What do you feed them instead? How do you change them? This is a tough challenge to face as a parent. Hopefully we can give some tips to keep your kiddos healthy!
Every child is different so take what you can from these suggestions and leave what won’t work. First, I suggest repetition. If you introduce a food 6 times you’ll start to tolerate or like it. So don’t just stop giving your child healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables are the most important thing to continue putting on your child’s plate. Eventually, they’ll tolerate some. Obviously if the child cannot stand certain fruits and vegetables but eats most others then don’t force. But if your child will not ANY then continue trying. Put what you made on their plate and as they continue growing and get old enough to understand, tell them to eat one bite each time. One bite will not kill them and they can get used to the taste. Think about people who try cigarettes or alcohol the first time. Do most people actually like the taste of either? Usually not. Once they continue trying, they not only tolerate but grow to like either one. So try this with your child except get them to like healthy things for their body.
Secondly, keep junk out of the house. This is huge for your children. If it’s not in the house, they can’t get it out and ask for it. Also, you won’t be tempted to give in or go to the “easy” route when they get hungry. This is mainly referring to processed food. Things such as packaged muffins, pop tarts, pre-made dinners/lunchables, cookies, chips, etc. All these things are high refined carbs, high fat, sodium, and loaded with added sugar. All of these things spike insulin and have little to no nutritional value. Instead, turn to fresh fruits, greek yogurt (or lower sugar regular without HFCS), raisins, homemade muffins, nuts, cottage cheese, etc. The more fresh foods your kids eat, the more they will ENJOY eating them.
Does this mean your children cannot ever eat a sweet treat? Of course not. Let’s just change the quality of the “sweet”. Should we ever give our children processed, fatty, high sugar sweets? No, never. What is the solution? Homemade sweets. Want a chocolate chip cookie? Make it together instead of buying it in a box or package. Is it still going to have sugar and fat? Yes. Will it have chemicals, trans fat, and high fructose corn syrup? NOPE. You are sparing your children the things that literally cause a majority of our health problems and that's the point. Their bodies will be able to metabolize the food because it’s not processed and has real ingredients. Making it together will also give them the opportunity to learn new skills of helping you bake. Measuring, stirring, pouring all help children with fine motor skills and education. Plus they have fun. You can’t replace a tradition of baking cookies together, they will always remember it.
If you child still doesn’t like eating vegetables, even with all your efforts, when all else fails, hide them. But hide them in their food! If you make spaghetti or lasagna, add minced vegetables such as onion, mushrooms, green pepper, fresh tomatoes, etc. If you make pancakes (homemade of course) then add minced apple and cinnamon. Your child will love the taste and not know there is “icky” fruit inside. Make your own blueberry muffins and put healthy fats such as flaxseed, coconut oil, almond oil, or plain/greek yogurt in it instead of vegetable oils. The little changes make a difference.
Give your child a multi-vitamin. You can purchase chewable and tasty vitamins for children so they get their much needed nutrients. They probably won’t know the difference if you don’t tell them. If they refuse then get a liquid vitamin and put it in their drink. You can purchase liquid ones that have barely any taste.
Lastly, make healthy food fun. As your children get older, they learn from our habits and take on our attitude toward most things. If you don’t make healthy food fun, how will they enjoy eating it and making it a habit as they age? They won’t. Just as if your mom didn’t like cooking and barely made meals; do you enjoy cooking? Did your parents exercise as a routine while you grew up? Do you exercise as a habit now? Most of the time we take on our parents habits. Let’s pass on good ones! How do we make healthy food fun? Take your child to the grocery store and have them pick out foods that look fun. Find recipes that are healthy and “cute” and have your child help you make them. There are so many ideas you can come up with. Choose a color each week or day to make with food (green, peas, green beans, green eggs and ham). Make homemade pancakes into fun shapes and use fruit for eyes, smiley faces, etc. These are just a few ideas.
Parents, don’t give up on feeding your kids healthy food. Their health future depends on you continually trying to give them the right foods. Watch your attitude and habits with food as well. Practice what you preach. The better example you are as a parent, the easier it will be for them to follow and have the future you want for them. We hope these suggestions help you get motivated to fill your cupboards will good choices and continue trying to get healthy food in your kids.