Is your child a picky eater? Do they tend to prefer eating unhealthy foods? Well, we can’t really blame them, can we? After all, it’s the parents who introduce these junk foods in the first place.
But how do we wean kids off unhealthy foods and make them love the healthy stuff? Well, we have a few tricks and tips for that. Here they are.
Tricks to get Your Kids to Eat Healthy
Change your own diet
You should serve as a model for your kids as they’re growing up. You can’t go on preaching the things you don’t practice. So if you’ve made a rule about no junk foods during the school week, stick to this! Never make a rule and bend it later.
Shop with kids
Shopping with kids is like giving them some of the responsibility of choosing their own foods. Taking kids to the grocery store and making the experience educational in terms of pointing out healthy foods is one way to instill responsible eating choices in your kids from a young age. So, try letting your kids pick out food from the grocery store one week. Involving kids in this process will also get them interested in preparing meals. Maybe they’ll even start to help you when preparing dinner!
Make meal time special
Always point out that meal time is something special and important for the family. Make it your family ritual. This bonding time means no television while at the dinner table. Involve kids in meal planning, assigning them days of the week when it’s their turn to participate in planning and cooking.
Give kids time to warm up to new foods
It takes up to 12 meals for kids to get familiar with and accept new foods. So next time your kid rejects your healthy foods, don’t give up too easily. Just try to include the new food in every other meal. This will help them to get used to it and they might even come to like it later.
Minimize television commercials
Television commercials are usually a bad influence in regards to healthy food choices. Every time commercials come on TV, junk foods will be marketed; from ready made meals to snack foods and fast foods. This influence makes kids think these foods are okay or normal. Seeing fast foods on the screen can also lead to cravings. Avoiding shows that show commercials can help minimize your children’s exposure from these unhealthy foods.
Don’t ban junk food outright
Banning junk food outright may make your kids feel that they have been deprived. Instead, wean them off of it slowly while introducing healthier alternatives. Also, don’t ban specific foods. This will only make kids crave them all the more. When they are able to get their hands on the banned food, they may overeat to compensate.
Avoid using food as a reward or punishment
Using food as a reward or punishment may make kids resent the food or they may associate it as being a prize, and not give a thought to its real purpose; healthy or otherwise. Instead, explain each food and its value in terms of health and always steer them towards healthier choice when possible.
Make meals with your kids
Making meals with your kids can inspire them. When they make the food and are involved in the process from the start, they will be more inclined to eat it. It’s not just the food making alone that will get your kids interested; setting up the table is also another good, hands-on way to help kids feel as if they are part of the process.
While these meals are being prepared, you can discuss the benefits of the different meal ingredients.
Encourage kids to eat healthy at school
Encourage your kids to take healthy foods to school. Always provide the option to buy foods but instill in their mind the importance of finishing the healthy food in their lunch box first. And as for the money for the additional food, instead of splurging them with treats, ask them to try and save it for other non-food items like toys or other collectibles they might want.
When buying unhealthy food, buy a small portion
When you buy something as a treat, don’t buy a lot of it. Buying a large portion of unhealthy food will only encourage your kids to eat more of it. Instead, buy the smallest pack whenever possible.
Keep unhealthy foods out of sight
Keeping unhealthy foods in a visible area will just tempt kids to eat more of it. Instead, keep it out of their sight. This will help remove the thought of eating it from their mind.
Start your quest for healthy eating with small portions
Serve the healthy option as a small portion at first. Then slowly increase the portion size. You can also let them have free rein on portion size when they’re a bit older, this will make them feel responsible for what they’re eating.
Help kids recognize when they’ve eaten enough
Sometimes kids can’t recognize it they are already full or not. Instead of reprimanding, just remind them that it’s best to eat until you’re full and eating too much can lead to unhealthy overeating.
Have a strict eating schedule
Aside from the fact that this can instill discipline, it can also discourage unnecessary eating or grazing throughout the day. When they’ve been served a meal late, they may tend to eat more when meal arrives. When they’ve been snacking before the meal, chances are they may find it hard to find an appetite for the actual meal.
Keep healthy snacks at hand
Instead of relying on fast foods when traveling, keep a cooler in your car and fill it with healthy snacks. Make vegetable sticks with healthy dips and pack them. That way you won’t be tempted to stop and check the nearest fast food store.
Make food fun
You can make the presentation fun by cutting veggies and other ingredients into their favorite characters or shapes. This not only fills your kid’s stomach but it can help unleash their imagination as well.
Create frozen treats
These frozen treats can be made using healthy ingredients like freshly extracted fruit and vegge juices. Sweeten the juice with a bit of honey and then freeze it to make popsicles, ice candies and homemade yogurts. You can also cut up fruits, freeze them, drizzle them with a honey syrup or a bit of chocolate syrup.
Make veggies enticing
Cut vegges up into fun shapes or mix them into other meals that your kids like.
The trick to keeping kids healthy without making them feel like they have been deprived is to look for different alternatives to their unhealthy favourites.
For example, instead of french fries (potatoes) use sweet potatoes as a substitute. And instead of deep frying, bake them. If you ever need to deep fry, use a healthier oil like coconut oil or olive oil. You can do this for potato chips too. You can cut potatoes thinly, bake them and use a homemade healthy dip.
Other tips include the following:
- Offer a healthy food option when your child is rested as well as hungry.
- Do not overwhelm kids with too much variety, instead, present each food slowly and give them time to get used to it.
- Introduce new healthy foods with ones they already like.
- Limit beverage consumption during meal time as this can make kids feel fuller faster.
Eating the right food can not only help kids get healthy, it’s a good way to instill discipline at an early age. Learning the value of healhty eating while they are young will help them retain that lifestyle when they get older.