Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy Food
The idea of getting your kids to eat healthy sounds like some hopeless, inconceivable task, one that’s doomed from the very start. But it really doesn’t have to be a struggle.
There is an endless array of things you, as a parent, can do, to get your kids not only eating healthy, but wanting to eat healthy.
One of the most important things you can do is introduce a healthy lifestyle (and healthy food) early on in your child’s life.
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking that getting your toddler to eat at all is a triumph, let alone getting him or her to eat healthy. But there are some things you can do to get your toddlers interested in healthy, wholesome food.
Proper Amounts and Patience
You must first make sure to serve the proper amount. The general rule is that you offer your child a tablespoon of each food based on their age. So, a two-year-old would get two tablespoons.
It is also important in this mission to be patient and persistent. Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. But, as long as you don’t give up, they will eventually bend.
Variety Is the Key
It will also help you to do what you can to inspire some excitement around fruits and veggies. Bring your toddler to the store and have them pick out interesting looking fruits.
Always maintain variety, both in types of fruit and vegetables, as well as in how they are prepared. Steamed spinach every night will get boring. Spice it up with some minced garlic and sauted onions, maybe even a dash of lemon juice and some pine nuts.
Try to make sure the same vegetable isn’t served two days in a row. And always try to have multiple veggie options; it is important to give them the freedom to choose, not to eat healthy, but which healthy food they want.
Make Them Part of the Game
Regardless of age, infant, toddler, or eight-year-old, you should always try to keep them involved and excited.
Have them help you plan meals, come to the grocery store with you, pick out their special healthy options, and even have them help you prepare them.
You don’t have to go crazy with these preparations; there are many recipes for healthy, delicious food that don’t involve knives or an oven. (Apples with peanut butter are a personal favorite of mine, but yogurt and fruit parfaits, with a dash of honey, also get the job done).
Experience is the Best Teaching
It is also a good idea to turn food into a teachable moment.
Where does it come from?
What is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable?
Take your kids to a local farm; picking your own berries or apples is always a fun adventure and serves as a fantastic opportunity to create excitement around fruit.
Stock Your Kitchen Consciously
Another thing to keep in mind, especially as your kids get older, is that they will eat what you have stocked in the house.
If you keep one of your higher cabinets secretly stocked with chocolate (I really can’t fault you for that), or other junk food, eventually, one of your kids is going to pick up on it and figure out a way to open it.
This brings up two valuable points.
Number one, teach your kids from a young age that unhealthy food is okay sometimes.
Turn a square of dark chocolate into a weekly Special Treat.
If you can create this ‘special’ status around the rarity of your consumption of junk food, then it is pretty likely your kids will look forward to that weekly chocolate, but won’t want more, as it would take the ‘special’ away from the Treat.
Like Father, Like Son (Daughter)
The second point is the value of being a role model.
Your healthy choices will have a powerful impact on your child’s outlook on food and healthy living.
Your unhealthy choices will have the same impact.
All kids want to be like Mom and Dad. So, order the side salad instead of the fries, eat an apple instead of a Kit-Kat. There is a good chance that your kids will eat and enjoy the same foods you eat and enjoy.
With that, it is vital to be consistent; if you tell your kids they have to order the side salad and you order the fries, their motivation to, and their understanding of why they should eat healthy, will become severely depleted.
You Can Do It
While it may seem like getting your kids to eat healthy is this perennial battle, these are some steps you can take to help persuade them to live the kind of healthy life you want for them.
Giving them’ options, letting them help, role modeling, and above all, making it fun, will serve you well on your Healthy Eating Mission.
I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.