Just the other day, some friends and I were sitting at the park, watching their little ones run around. I was in hysterics as I listened to their version of “kids say the darndest things.” They went on about funny trips to the potty, proud feelings as a parent and precious moments before bedtime. They also shared about the not-so-fun side of parenting; namely, poor eating habits.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard parents express frustration about kids not eating well (and sometimes even demanding different meals than the ones prepared for them). I must admit, I’m not yet a mom, so I don’t have too many tricks up my sleeve. But lucky for us, there was a kind soul at the park (let’s call her the mommy expert), who graciously shared her tips on how to get those kiddos to eat more than crackers and peanut butter. If you’re like many other moms and dads struggling to get your kids eating right, try these following suggestions and see how your children can develop healthy eating habits at an early age.
Let ‘em pick it
There’s something fun about going to the Farmers Market, the produce section of the grocery store, or even your own garden and seeing all the beautiful, vibrant colors. Kids are naturally drawn to bright objects and depending on their age, they’re likely to touch everything in sight. Perfect! Let them pick out their favorite fruits and veggies but with a loving reminder that they’ll be eating it later on. Sit back, relax and enjoy seeing what they choose.
Warning: this might require a little more creativity on your part when it comes to cooking the (possibly funky or new) food items. But hey, some of those less popular veggies are actually excellent choices for nutrients. Take bok choy, for example, a great source of vitamins A, C and K, (and particularly beneficial for children and pregnant women!).
Chef in training
I’m not sure about you, but when I first started cooking, everything tasted so great! That is, to me and me alone. I think it’s because I knew how much time, work and excitement went into making the meal and I was just happy to finally be cooking. Spending time cutting, seasoning and stirring while the savory smells built my appetite, I was (and still am) always ready to taste and enjoy my creation. I’ll bet (and the mommy expert says) the same will happen with kids. After spending time cooking with mom or dad, they’ll likely be anxious to eat what they’ve created. Here’s a tip: while cooking, remind them this is what they picked out earlier that day and see how their excitement grows!
Warning: be sure to plan meals with age-appropriate cooking techniques. A three-year-old, for example, would be perfect for adding the pre-cut veggies to the salad bowl, while the older ones may want to measure the spices.
Talk it up
Whether you’re grocery shopping, going for a walk or simply hanging around the house, find ways to talk about nutrition in a fun, positive light. It could be telling the kids about your energizing lunch and how it gave you the kick needed to overcome that mid-day slump. Or perhaps you could share interesting articles you’ve read about healthy eating habits. Hearing a positive message about healthy foods will create a positive mindset for the long-haul.
The younger ones may not be so interested in the articles you read, but there are ways to bring nutritional talk into their normal routine. Bedtime stories about healthy foods are a great way to send your little one to sleep, dreaming of veggies. Visit a bookstore to see what options they may have, or create your own bedtime tales! Here’s a list of fun children’s books that teach healthy eating, but always pre-read to make sure it’s appropriate for your child.
Letting your kids be a part of preparing the meal will not only get them excited about eating well, but will also teach them at an early age how to make their own, healthy foods. Speaking as a recent college grad, they’ll appreciate you later when they don’t depend on the campus cafeteria for a decent dinner.
Try these tips and let us know how your little ones enjoy mealtime. If you have any tips of your own, we’d love to hear!