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Getting kids to eat healthy is similar to trying to herd cats.
My son is the lead cat that needs to be herded! He’s the only person I know who doesn’t like chocolate, peanut butter, any kind of flavored milk, tomato sauce on his pasta, smoothies of any kind (texture), yogurt (again texture), the concept of salad, and the list goes on! LOL.
I was told that he would become so hungry as puberty set in that he wouldn’t be such a picky eater anymore.
While they were hit or miss with my son, I did use some of these strategies for my daughter who wasn’t as difficult to please.
The Picky Eater Club
There are so many reasons that kids can give as to why they don’t want to, should not, and quite possibly will die if they even take a single bite of this “good” food. Spanning from not tasting good – even though they have never tried it – to the fact they think they may be allergic to the food in question, kids are masters at dodging the proverbial ball of health food. There are, however, a few ways to get your kids to try new foods. After all, they have an arsenal of reasons why not to eat it, why not keep your own stockpile of weaponry to get them to eat the food they don’t want to.
Be a Role Model
Children’s minds are like bread, soaking up everything surrounding it. Being a role model and continually trying new foods in front of and with your child can help to shape their ideas about trying new things. It’s important to let your kids see that it’s ok, and even fun, to try new things from time to time. Demonstrating the adventure and intrigue of trying new foods will stick in your child’s memory for the rest of their lives.
I still have to remind my husband about this: there are foods that he doesn’t like and won’t eat. The kids see that and weaponize it!
Meal Plan Together
Kids are more apt to eat something they made, or at least planned to make. Letting your kids design the weekly meal, and even help cook the meals increases the chance they will try and like foods you are preparing.
Children are stimulated and become completely engrossed when they have the opportunity to get into a hands-on position. By allowing them to help plan the meals and to prepare and cook the food, children see exactly what goes in to the pot and there are fewer surprises for them to come up with the excuse they don’t like what is in it.
Keep Healthy Options Available
Nothing is worse than watching your kid look for a snack, finding nothing healthy and heading right for the ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Children learn from and rely heavily on the ability to make their own decisions, whether it’s on what clothes they want to wear to the types of foods they want to eat. It’s important to offer a wide variety of choices to your kids. Just remember to respect their likes and dislikes (as much as possible) and change the options up frequently so they don’t get bored.
Again, if I only bought what my son liked, it would be starchy chips and crackers and apples. Respect but lead in the right direction – see tip number 2 below.
Here are five tips and ideas to help you get more fruits and veggies into your children:
Children love smoothies and milkshakes. You can add fruits, and even vegetables, to the smoothies of children without them knowing they’re drinking their fruits and vegetables. Bananas, berries, carrots, and even apples and celery can be added. You can also add leafy greens like spinach, but the green color of the smoothie will be a dead giveaway. You may want to introduce leafy greens later when your child is accustomed to smoothies.
It’s amazing what happens when you place a tray of vegetables and dip on the table during snack time. When children don’t have to eat their vegetables, they’re more likely to enjoy them. A low-pressure snack with celery, carrots, cucumbers, and other child-friendly vegetables is a great way to get a few more vegetables into their diets. Good dips to consider include hummus made of chickpeas, or guacamole containing avocado. You can also switch it up with an occasional fruit and cheese tray, and fun fruit dips made out of yogurt and pureed fruits.
It’s sneaky, but it works. Like fruit purees, you can add vegetable purees to just about anything. You can add them to spaghetti, muffins, brownies, and even taco meat. Squash makes a great puree but so do vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and even beans.
4. Serve two vegetables at mealtime
One great way to get more vegetables into your children’s diets is to serve two vegetables at mealtime. Serve a cooked vegetable and a salad, for example. If you’re also being sneaky and placing purees in your food, then your children may even be able to get three or more servings of vegetables at dinner time.
5. Serve salsas, sauces, and vegetable dips
Any sauce or dip that’s made from a vegetable, helps you get more veggies into your children’s diets. Serve salsas and vegetable sauces at mealtimes when appropriate. For example, salsa can be served with scrambled eggs, or hummus with celery stalks. Even apples and peanut butter can get a serving of fruit into your children. Consider making ants on a log, where you put peanut butter on celery, and then raisins on top. Some children think that this is fun, and don’t even notice that they’re eating healthier food options.
With a little planning ahead, a bit of sneakiness, and a commitment to implement the above strategies, you can get more fruits and vegetables into your children’s diets. It’s important to take a relaxed approach to eating. If you force children to eat veggies, they’re likely to resist. Instead, ask them to try the different foods as children have different taste buds than adults. It may take a few ‘tastes’ for them to learn to like a fruit or vegetable.
Getting your children to eat healthy can be as simple as letting them get involved. Interacting with all of their senses, suddenly trying new foods becomes fun and intriguing. Allowing children to help out in preparing the meal builds a sense of pride and accomplishment. If all else fails, throw some new fruits and veggies in the blender with a little honey and they will never know the delicious smoothie they are drinking is actually good for them. Hiding the foods they don’t like, inside of foods they love, is a great fail-safe weapon.
I thought smoothies would be a surefire winner, right? I haven’t found a combination that my son willingly will tolerate. He will take a sip or two of a green smoothie (odd) but fruit ones – nothing!
However, I find that roasting vegetables makes them his favorite things. I roast broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots with olive oil and a little salt, and he will stand over the sheet pan and eat most of it before we can get to it!
You do what you have to do, right!
Loving Life—The Reboot!