Kids can be notoriously picky when it comes to the foods they’re willing to consume. As a parent concerned with providing a nutritious and balanced diet that will give children the energy they need to get through the day, the fiber required for regular digestion, and the nutrients that will ensure good health and normal development, you will often find yourself frustrated by the unwillingness of children to try new dishes or ingest a variety of foods. From a scientific standpoint, this may have something to do with the fact that their tastes are still developing and that they’ll change over time. As a result, there are going to be certain flavors that are abhorrent to their taste buds. But you can’t necessarily let that deter you. After all, it’s your responsibility to help them grow up healthy and strong, thanks in part to their diet. So how can you get your kids to eat what they’re supposed to, even when they refuse to comply? Here are a few options to ensure they’ll make healthier choices.
- Trick them. Nobody wants to feel like the jerk that lies to their kids in order to get them to down a mouthful of broccoli, but neither do you want your children to live on chocolate milk and PBJs. Luckily, you’re not the first parent to deal with this issue, and there are all kinds of recipes designed to deliver the nutrients your kids need while masking the presence of veggies. For example, you could try green monster smoothies. They need never know that these delicious drinks contain spinach since the taste of strawberries, bananas, and other fruit will mask the flavor. You could also try making mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. This dish looks the same and with a little seasoning kids might not mind the taste.
- Experiment early. As soon as your kids are able to start eating solid food you should begin offering them a variety of basic, natural items, as well as multi-ingredient dishes. The more foods they’re exposed to, the better chance they’ll be willing to try new things. And you’ll soon discover which flavors they prefer so that you always have fallbacks.
- Don’t keep sweets at home. If you keep items with processed sugar, fat, and starch in the house (cookies, chips, soda, etc.), there’s no contest – these are the items your kids will go for because they’re designed to make you want more. But if you leave these items at the store and instead feed your children a steady diet of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products, they’re a lot more like to reach for these items on their own.
- Forego food rewards. One of the easiest ways to potty train kids is by using M&Ms as incentive to head for the toilet when they feel the need to go. But you don’t necessarily want to make a habit out of using food as a reward system. For one thing, studies have shown that this behavior can lead to eating disorders years later. But it will also give kids the impression that any time they do something right they will get a treat, which can be a dangerous precedent to set if you don’t want your kids demanding sugar every time they clean their room or ace their classes – there are much more appropriate ways to reward these desirable behaviors.
- Start a garden. One great way to encourage kids to make healthier food choices is to get them involved in the process in a fun way. For example, you could peruse the options on RecipeChart.com and let the kids select healthy recipes to try that appeal to them. But you might also want to start at the beginning by having them help you plant a garden. Allow them to pick fruits and veggies they want to grow, then help them to plant seeds, water and feed, and ultimately harvest their crop. From there you can start putting the items the kids have grown into the recipes they want to try, even going so far as to let them participate in cooking. This should help to increase their investment in eating healthy food.