If there’s one thing most parents agree upon, it’s this: getting kids to eat healthy is hard work. First, there are way too many not-so-healthy temptations out there. And let’s face it, most kids just see potato chips and cookies as more tempting than carrots and tomatoes. Then, there’s the often-high cost of groceries (especially fresh produce) that truly fit into the healthy range. Still, it’s a worthy cause, so stop pulling your hair out. Here are 6 tips you can use to get your kids to eat better:
- Don’t stock junk food: This tip is so simple, but seems to be so difficult for some parents to apply (stay strong!). If you don’t want your children to eat junky foods, don’t buy them. Do not feel that you have to buy junk foods, processed meal selections, or sugary cereals. If your child is used to these, he may complain a bit when he doesn’t find them in your pantry, but eventually, he will get used to it. And he won’t starve either. If there’s no junk food in the house and your child wants a snack, he will make a choice from the healthy options you provide.
- Be a good example: No amount of lecturing your kids on the health benefits of apples, oranges, kale, and spinach will have an effect if you’re constantly shoving oatmeal cream pies, corn chips, and donuts in your own mouth. Let your children catch you eating healthy foods on a regular basis, and make sure they know you’re enjoying them. If you have a weakness for cupcakes that you just can’t shake, do your best to overindulge when your kids are not around.
- Allow your child to serve herself: When possible, allow your child to spoon her own portions onto her plate, or at least help you do it for her. This way, she is choosing how much she gets, she tries the foods you provide, and you avoid the struggle of listening to your child complain that you gave her too much as you nag her to eat vegetables. Make the point that your child eats some of everything you set on the table rather than focusing on how much of it she eats at each sitting.
- Carry healthy snacks: As parents, our downfall often comes into play when we are out and about with our kids and someone gets hungry. Most options at that point are going to prove unhealthy. The solution is to carry healthy snacks with you. For example, you may stock an insulated bag or a cooler with carrots and celery slices, yogurt, cheese strips or blocks, and whole-grain crackers. Don’t forget to add some water too. These snacks can tide you and your children over until you can get home to a full meal.
- Try dips and dressings: Sometimes kids just don’t like the taste of fresh fruit and veggies. No matter how much you try to convince your kids that they’re yummy, they may simply grimace each time they take a bite. Providing low-fat, low-sodium dips and dressings may help encourage your child to eat these foods. Just watch the amount of dip or dressing you provide. You want your child to have dip with her veggies not mostly dip and a tiny portion of veggies.
- Let your kids eat junk once in a while: Nothing makes a treat more attractive than 100-percent denial. You may want to ensure that your child never has a sip of soda, a bite of candy, or a handful of cookies, but making certain foods forbidden is sure to backfire on you. Instead, make these occasional treats, such as for when you go out to eat, at parties, at Grandma’s house, or on family movie night.
Use the above tips to help your child eat healthy, keeping in mind that it may take time for your child to get used to (and appreciate) your new way of handling snacks and meals. Do you have healthy eating tips that have worked for you and your family? Share them with us!