We’re sure you all wish you had the time to be the Pinterest-worthy parent, making cute and healthy bento boxes for your child’s school lunch and preparing fresh from the garden home-cooked meals. Unfortunately, we live in a high-paced society, usually toting kids from activity to activity and grabbing the nearest food to bring along, which tends to be unhealthy.
There are probably many reasons that you child isn’t getting the most nutritious meals or snacks. Maybe your next door neighbor continues to disobey your request and always feeds your child sugary snacks at play dates. Or maybe you don’t have time running from one activity to another to have dinner at home. Or most typically, your child is just a picky eater and refuses to eat anything that is green.
Regardless of why, here are some tips on how to subtly and not-so-subtly get your kids to eat a little healthier.
- Meal plan. Every weekend, carve out a little bit of time to prepare healthy snacks throughout the week. Have your child help so they are involved and learn this important habit. These snacks should be simple, such as an apple and string cheese or some whole wheat crackers and peanut butter.
- Add condiments or spices. We typically assume as parents that our kids don’t like “spicy” or “flavorful” food, but that’s a bad assumption to make. Add more flavor to those vegetables with some olive oil and spices. Just beware not to overdo it!
- Praise healthy choices. When your child does eat something healthy (possibly by accident), praise them for selecting a “healthy” choice.
- Keep healthy snacks accessible. Make sure those fresh fruits are easy for your children to grab and they know where the string cheese is for a quick snack.
- Keep unhealthy snacks inaccessible. Hide those fruit snacks and other overly-processed snacks where you kids can’t see them and remember, those are “treats” only to be consumed on a special occasion. If you purchase a lot of junk food, consider cutting back. Be careful not to put restrictions on food though, as that could evolve into eating disorders and an unhealthy view on food.
- Introduce new foods slowly. By nature, kids don’t like change very much and they are still learning about tastes, so introduce new foods one at a time and make sure to tell them that sometimes it takes a few bites to “like” something.
- Turn the table. Instead of telling them to “eat their vegetables”, which they will resist, lead by example and show them how much you like your vegetables and talk about it. Nothing works better than telling them their favorite (superhero/athlete/musician, etc.) likes vegetables.
- Cook together. This may be difficult during the week with activities, but try to find a time once or twice a week to have your children help make dinner. They’ll not only learn how to cook and be excited to help make a mess, but they will be more apt to eat the foods they helped prepare.
- Small bites. Many times we catch ourselves saying “you need to eat all of your vegetables.” Consider small bites as a success by telling them that they need to at least “try” everything on their plate.
- Educate. If your child is old enough to understand, educate them on the benefits of nutritious foods and how they can help them personally. Teach them that lean proteins, such as turkey and chicken can build lean muscle mass, which will help them perform better in sports. Or how antioxidants are great for their skin and hair.
TKD Tip: Incorporate healthy eating as one of your child’s home goals.
Parent/Child Activity: Sit down with your child and plan out some fun, healthy snacks that you can prepare for the week. Make a list of a few options and take them grocery shopping with you to select the foods. Make sure they are also involved in portioning out the snacks for the week ahead. Make it even more fun and have them write or draw fun notes on each of their snack bags!