8 Ways to Get Kids to Eat Better
Having a picky eater in the house can be frustrating. Having kids obsessed with junk food can be even more frustrating, when you consider the health problems associated with poor nutrition. So what is a parent or au pair to do when faced with these dilemmas? Creativity and patience may be required to get the ball rolling towards healthier eating habits. Here are a few ideas that may help improve the kids eating habits.
- Start Early: Establishing healthy eating habits should begin early in life. You can choose alternatives to the usual culprits of sweets and junk food by cultivating a taste for healthy foods early in your child’s life. Limiting sugary foods is important for several reasons. Oral health can be compromised with too much sugar, particularly with a high consumption of candy, cookies, soft drinks and sweetened juices. High sugar consumption can also lead to early obesity which in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Be a Good Role Model: If you really want your kids to eat better, the adults in the house are going to need to eat better also. If you’re constantly snacking on chips and dip, don’t expect the kids to enjoy eating carrot sticks. If your au pair lives on chips, pastries and soft drinks, it will be more difficult to get the kids to eat healthy as well. On the flip side, constantly dieting and complaining about the foods you should or shouldn’t eat will not be helpful either. Announcing that you hate peas is a sure-fire way to get your kids to start announcing all the foods they dislike, most of which may currently be on their plate! Model the behaviors you would like to see in your children.
- Feed Your Kids Often: Smaller portions offered several times a day will keep your kids satisfied and make meal times easier. Three modest meals and healthy snacks between those meals can be healthier than trying to get them to eat a plate full of food only at breakfast, lunch and dinner. While healthy snacks can be fruits and veggies, there are endless recipes available for other healthy, homemade snacks.
- Retire the Role of Food Police: A child who is offered wholesome, nourishing foods on a regular basis will not starve because they will eventually eat when they are hungry enough. Serve up balanced meals, put appropriate amounts of food on the plate, allow a reasonable amount of time for the meal to be consumed and be okay with removing a plate of food that’s only half eaten. If a child is used to sugary foods, this may be a more difficult process. Serving different options allows parents and au pairs to see they types of healthy foods the child may like. Remember, there may always be food a person just does not enjoy!
- Eat together as a family: All families can be on hectic schedules which can negatively impact living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to being over-scheduled, many kids miss out on valuable time with parents when few meals are shared as a family. Of course, in most households, it’s not feasible to have every meal together, but having dinner or breakfast together as often as possible can have a positive impact on a family. This is especially true as kids get older. This family time provides an opportunity for kids and adults to share the happenings of their day. Families coming together for a well-balanced meal can be enjoy each other while deepen their relationships.
- Home Cooked Meals = Healthier meals: If you use quality ingredients, homemade meals will be healthier than processed, convenience foods. Also, they don’t take as much time to prepare as you may think. Processed foods are often full of ingredients that are hard for the body to digest. They may be convenient, but at what cost to your health and that of your children? Making home cooked meals does not have to be time consuming. Take advantage of cookware that helps make the process easier. Pressure cookers allow cooking to be done in a matter of minutes instead of hours. You can use a crockpot to start dinner in the morning, and allow things to cook while you take care of all your daily responsibilities. Microwave ovens can be used for a lot more than heating up leftovers too!
- Get the Kids Involved: When kids are involved in planning and creating meals, they are more likely to enjoy their food and make healthy choices on their own. Give them the parameters for a well-balanced meal and ask for their suggestions. Be willing to go with whatever they propose, especially at first. As long as the vegetables are really vegetables, the meat is really meat and all the ingredients are healthy, there should be no cause for objection. Older kids may enjoy looking up recipes and little ones can put together fun and simple snacks, such as ants on a log (peanut butter and raisins on celery sticks).
- Learn About Healthy Foods: Unfortunately, many adults are not educated about the foods they are eating. Many households are now opting for organic alternatives and basic ingredients, when possible, avoiding preservatives, artificial ingredients, dyes and other additives in pre-prepared food. Learning about healthy options is fundamental for helping your kids eat better.