We all know the best way to teach our kids how to eat healthy is to start early and be good role models ourselves. It sounds simple, but many moms will tell you otherwise. It takes 12 exposures for most kids to accept a new food! Twelve! That is for an average kid. Your uber-opinionated, picky, stubborn, and wonderfully independent angel may take longer.
Healthy snacks may seem less available and more expensive and sadly that is sometimes true. It is much easier to grab a box of fruit snacks rather then cut up the actual fruit, and you won’t find them rotting at the back of your fridge a month from now. Schools also fall prey to “the easy way out,” often serving snacks that put convenience over nutrition. Programs that are peanut or nut-free add an additional layer of difficulty which cannot be avoided.
So how do you get kids to eat healthy?
1) Be a good example.
2) Try and try again. And keep trying!
3) Get your kids involved with choosing the food and in preparing it. If they like the color, shape, or feel of an eggplant go with it. You may think “He/she won’t like this, it isn’t worth my time,” but give it a shot and don’t let your child know you are skeptical.
4) Make it beautiful or just fun. Like adults, children of all ages are more likely to eat food that is visually appealing. Cut it into fun shapes, put it in a fun serving dish, or even turn new food tasting into a game the for the whole family.
5) Disguise it. Yep that’s right. In the end they need their fruits and veggies one way or another. Smoothies are an easy way to add a new fruit or even veggie into your child’s diet. Pasta sauces can cover up shredded carrot or zucchini. Books and web sites like http://www.thesneakychef.com/ can help. The eventual goal is to get them to eat the healthy food in its undisguised form, but this is a start.
6) Keep less healthy foods out of your house entirely (or almost). If your child knows there aren’t alternatives readily available they are more likely to accept the healthy options. This is especially helpful with hungry teenagers who will snack on almost anything, but may grab the bag of chips before the apple. Healthy snack suggestions can be found at http://www.healthychildren.org/
7) Take a few moments 1-2 times a week to make small containers or baggies of healthy snacks such as carrot chips, celery, sliced apples, grapes, dried fruits, or whole grain pretzels that you can later throw into a diaper bag, lunch box, backpack or can be grabbed by on older child after school. Please be sure to cut food into appropriate sizes based on your child’s developmental level to avoid choking.
Does anyone have other suggestions for picky eaters or recipes they have found successful?