We all want our kids to be healthy, but coming up with ways to get kids to eat healthy foods can be hard work. Here are 11 simple ways to help you get your kids to eat healthy foods (without bribing or forcing!)
The habits you start when young will often continue on. If you feed your child junk from a young age they will come to crave this. Try to present healthy food options with a variety of choices from a young age. Most kids go through fussy stages but the more variety you offer from a young age the better your chances of instilling healthy eating habits.
Blend & hide!
My oldest son lives almost exclusively on spaghetti bolognese at dinner time. You’d be amazed at how many veggies you can hide in one bowl. I blend up zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and squash to oblivion and mix in with the sauce. You can even add veggies into “treats” such as muffins and cakes. The trick is to blend until it isn’t recognisable!
Don’t make it a fight
Creating dinner time battles is one of the worst things you can do if you are trying to foster healthy eating habits. Don’t force, try not to bribe (encouraging a child to eat something healthy for the reward of something unhealthy is bound to fail in the long term). Offer, encourage, be consistent but don’t make a fuss and don’t turn it into a fight.
Lead by example
Trying to get your child to eat sushi while you stuff your face with Macca’s does not a healthy child make. Have a home filled with healthy foods and a life that is lead by example. Treats are fine, balance is good, but do try to set a good example with the foods you eat.
It isn’t going to happen overnight. Change takes time and developing a taste for healthy foods will take time too. Be consistent and be realistic. Be excited about small achievements, don’t expect huge changes. Take one step at a time.
Make food fun
Turn healthy foods into fun foods. Make pictures with the food on the plate, learn to do lunch boxes in a bento style. Make food fun. Give food funny names and make it a game. My son loves “dino dip”… it is blended up marinated capsicum. I don’t think he would be nearly so keen if I told him that.
Grow your own
Do you have a veggie patch? Getting kids growing their own food is a great way to encourage healthy habits and get them to try something new. Even if you don’t have a large yard you can grow beans, tomatos, lettuces and more in small pots.
Get them involved
Get the kids into the kitchen and involved in preparing foods. They are more likely to try something they’ve made with their own hands.
Everyone has likes and dislikes. Make sure that you have options at every meal. Some things you know they will eat as well as a few new things. They don’t have to eat everything but they do need to try some new things. Give them the choice of what.
Give a reason
Connect food with how they feel can be a great way to encourage healthy eating. Explain how healthy foods give us energy, vitamins and keep our bodies working. Explain why we can’t always eat junk and what are sometimes and everyday foods. Just like adults, kids need to understand why it is that we do what we do.
Did you know it takes on average 8-12 presentations of a food before a child will try it. Don’t give up, keep putting it on the plate.
I had this experience with Mr 3 and the delicious flavour of Neocate (for those who aren’t familiar, Neocate is a prescription formula given to babies and children who have multiple food allergies… and it tastes FERAL). Mr 3 has a dairy and soy allergy and when he stopped breastfeeding at 17 months he wasn’t eating enough food to maintain his weight. His paediatrician put him on Neocate as a supplement.
Neocate tastes AWFUL. Like seriously bad. The first few times I gave it to him he literally spat it in my face. Slowly I mixed it with other foods and gradually decreased the amount of whatever flavour I was adding and increasing the Neocate. With time, Mr 3 came to love Neocate. He was obsessed in fact! At 2.5 when we tried weaning him off it he would literally beg for it. Above all, be consistent. It does work.
What ideas do you have to get kids to eat healthy foods?