It’s sometimes hard to get kids to eat healthy foods, but it’s worth the effort. Children with good eating habits are less likely to become obese, develop diabetes, and experience cardiovascular problems later in life. Furthermore, research shows that diet may play an integral role in a wide variety of childhood behavioral issues, such as ADHD and anxiety.
Here are five tips for getting your kids to make good food choices.
Figure out what, how much, and when you want your kids to eat. Learn the nutritional value of the foods you’ll serve, and plan meals and snacks accordingly. Show your children that you’re knowledgeable about the dietary changes you’re implementing. If they sense you’re confident about their new menu, they’re less likely to oppose it.
Don’t expect your kids to jump from hot dogs to broccoli overnight. Make changes gradually, and don’t give up. Start by giving them one small bite of a new, healthy food before you serve a meal they’re accustomed to eating. It could be a piece of chicken, a leaf of kale, or half a green bean. Tell them they have to try the new food before they can have their meal. If you make the piece of new food tiny enough, even the pickiest of eaters should try it.
Increase the amount of the new, healthier food until your kids are eating a full serving. This may happen in a few days or it may take months. All kids are different, and there’s no correct amount of time for how long it’ll take to get your kids off the junk and on to healthy, nourishing foods.
This is probably the hardest part of the dietary shift to healthier foods and will test your resolve the most. Stay strong, and remind yourself that you’re doing it to keep your children healthy and safe.
Give them choices
Let them make choices during and after your family’s move to healthy food. They’ll feel more in control, and it’ll take a little stress off you. Snack time is the easiest and most natural occasion to let them choose what to eat. Have several healthy snacks available; bananas, cashews, raisins, and carrot sticks are good choices. Give them free reign to choose whatever appeals to them.
Your ultimate goal is to get your kids to choose to eat healthy foods. Giving them opportunities to do so is vital.
Model healthy eating
Kids pick up behaviors based on what they observe others doing. If they see you eating fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to eat them, too. This is especially true of very young children. Let them see you eating red pepper slices dipped in hummus or reaching for an apple instead of a bag of chips.
Explain your food choices to them; tell them eating healthy foods helps you feel better and see the doctor less.
Some kids need more support than others, and you can provide it with dipping sauces. Sauce can add to or camouflage flavors, making them especially helpful for picky eaters.
Some dipping sauces provide an extra nutritional punch. Hummus, yogurt, and salsa are good choices. Ketchup works well, too. If you buy premade sauce, check for added sugar and preservatives.
Some kids take a long time to come around to a new, healthier diet. This is fine; don’t give up. Educate yourself, make meal plans, provide healthy snacks, be consistent, and stay patient. Establishing good eating habits at an early age sets the stage for a long, healthy adulthood.