Like many of you, I frequently struggle when trying to persuade my children to make healthy food choices. One child despises vegetables, one child only likes red meats, and one thinks sugar is the base of the food pyramid. I sometimes think, “Where did I go wrong? Did I not expose them to a variety of nutritious foods when they were toddlers?”. I even sadly project to the future, “When they go out to a nice dinner and meet their future in-laws will they order chicken fingers and french fries?”, hence revealing my total and complete failure as a parent. However, I have good news — it’s not too late! Doctors and nutritionists found the following strategies work well with children and teens.
Place readily accessible nutritious snacks on the counter.
Grab and go snacks appeal to busy and active kids. Enticing options are watermelon slices, orange slices, baby carrots, and almonds. This prevents pantry scavenging.
Encourage your child to participate in meal planning.
Try letting your child choose a weekly meal. Kids and especially teens relish the autonomy, unaware they are also getting an education on how to create a well-balanced meal. Our crusts are a fantastic option — they allow kids to use their creative talents and meet nutritional needs!
Place healthier foods at eye level in the pantry.
When foraging, kids often grab what is right in front of their faces.
Educate your kids on the specific benefits of the food they eat.
Instead of a vague notion of healthy, bring it down to their level and relate it to our bodies. For example, as your family eats a salmon dinner discuss how great salmon’s omega-3’s are for our brains. Avoid lecturing, short, and sweet is always good.
Strategically make the vegetables the first course.
Before you finish cooking dinner, place the veggies on the kid’s plates, and see what happens. Instead of hovering over you complaining of hungry tummies, they may just take what is offered. I often find the vegetables disappear before we even sit down.
Take advantage of benign opportunities to discuss why certain foods are poor choices.
For instance, if you are passing a soft drink billboard say something like, “Can you believe some soft drinks have more sugar than a candy bar? It’s like drinking a dessert!”. Attacking our kids every time we see sugar pass their lips can leave them feeling defensive and ashamed, resulting in unhealthy relationships with food. This passive approach can make kids receptive to listening and learning.
Blend or Freeze.
Have you ever noticed how intrigued kids are with smoothies and popsicles? You can pack both with amazing amounts of wholesome and healthy foods kids otherwise would not eat alone. Definitely have your kids participate in the blending and pouring — they love it! Bananas, berries, apples, spinach, and kale create a beautiful combination. Pour smoothies into popsicle molds and freeze for a delicious warm-weather treat!
Please let us know what strategies work for you! We love hearing your ideas and feedback!