I have three kids with very different eating habits. My oldest daughter has always been a great eater. She loves fruits, vegetables and almost anything. My son eats nothing. Seriously. He survives on bologna, bacon and macaroni and cheese. My youngest daughter is somewhere in the middle. She eats most types of foods, but is picky about some things.
I think most parents worry about whether their kids are eating a balanced diet. With my son, I wonder sometimes how he eats enough to stay alive. I have battled with my kids about what they eat for 15 years.
Here are some tips to getting your kids to eat healthy foods. Most likely, they won’t all work, but maybe you can add a few into your routine and improve your kids’ eating habits.
Take your kids shopping
I have found that if I let my kids pick the healthy foods, they are more likely to eat those foods. Yes, they still try to sneak donuts and honey buns into the shopping cart, but with some guidance they will select healthy foods.
Also, we can plan the meals we will make from the foods they selected and that helps get them more excited about their choices. They learn how to create a more balanced meal with lean meat, a fruit and vegetable, and whole-grain bread, rice or pasta.
Cook with your kids
Another way to get kids more excited about the foods they eat is to let them help you in the kitchen. If my kids help fix it, they are more likely to eat it because they have pride and ownership of the healthy meal they created.
In addition, you have the opportunity to educate your kids about the health benefits of different foods. My son plays sports and lifts weights. I talk to him about the importance of protein to build muscles and eating a well-balanced diet to grow and get stronger. He has started eating more and a greater variety of foods because he understands how it can benefit him in the long run.
Make it fun
If every meal is a struggle and a fight to get your kids to eat, it isn’t fun for anyone. Make trying something new fun. You can create a chart with your kids and add stars every time your child tries a food they don’t think they’ll like. It may take several times of trying a new food before your child acquires a taste for it. So, try not to get discouraged or make a big deal if he or she doesn’t like it the first time.
You won’t be able to change your children’s eating habits overnight. It is an ongoing process. Try not to nag about unhealthy choices. You can let your kids know you are pleased when they make healthy choices. Never use food as a reward. This could lead to weight problems later in life if they associate food with emotions. Avoid placing restrictions on food. Your kids will still eat junk food, but they will learn to limit it in favor of more nutritional options.
With my kids, it seems like everything is a power struggle. If I can give them choices, it makes all of our lives easier. When we have tacos, they can choose the toppings they want to add. I also give them a choice of snacks: apple slices, a banana, or crackers and peanut butter.
Keep healthy food handy
I try to keep good snacks in a cabinet that my kids can all reach. I have granola bars, crackers and fruit cups on the lower shelves. In the refrigerator, I keep fresh fruits and veggies in the bottom crisper and yogurt cups on the lower shelf. If healthy foods are easy to grab, my kids will typically choose these foods.
Visit the source
If you can actually take your kids to a local grower or farm, it can be a great way to learn more about where foods come from. You can also visit a farmer’s market so that your kids can help you pick out healthy foods. Even better, if you have the outdoor space to plant a small garden, it gets kids even more involved when they grow their own food.
Be a role model
We all know that nothing gets past a kid. If you want them to eat healthier, then you have to set a good example. Kids want to imitate their parents. Your good eating habits will encourage them to do the same. You can also help shape your kids’ relationships with food. If you call yourself fat or constantly count calories and beat yourself up over food choices, your kids may pick up these habits.
Don’t give up
For whatever reason, the stuff that’s bad for us tastes really good! And there are so many unhealthy options available today. Teaching your children to make good food choices is an ongoing process. For that matter, it can be a life-long journey for us grown ups, too. So, keep offering those nutritious foods and your kids will develop good eating habits!
Are your kids picky eaters? Do you have tips for getting kids to make healthy food choices?