As a mother of two, one of my biggest pleasures in life is feeding my kids nutritious meals. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy! Kids have minds of their own and are not always interested in steamed vegetables and quinoa. However, through experience and trial and error, I have found some ways to get my little ones to make cleaner choices. Here is my tried and tested advice to make your family meals healthier and help your loved ones make healthier choices.
Be an example for your kids
Kids notice everything, such as when you skip the veggies at dinner. You can’t expect your kids to eat what you don’t want to eat yourself. Choose whole wheat bread over white, eat fruit for dessert, and snack on sliced vegetables instead of fatty, processed biscuits or chips. Be positive about trying new, healthy foods. Don’t forget to get Dad to jump on board- healthy kids are a team effort!
Eat more homemade foods
Fast food and restaurant meals are loaded with hidden salt, sugar and fat (and usually, the bad kind of fat). When you cook at home, you can control the ingredients that your children put into their bodies and can choose the quality of your ingredients.
Get the kiddies involved
Have them participate in meal preparation. Kids are very proud when they accomplish things. When they’ve helped make the dinner, they are more likely to eat it. Some great ideas for meals to make together are mini pizzas with veggies, face shaped meals, healthy muffins and fruit salads.
Incorporate fruits and veggies into everything
…Even treats! Smoothies are a great way to get kids to drink fruit and vegetables. A handful of spinach or kale is hardly detectable in a fruit smoothie. Use strawberries or beets to create a pink colour. Use bananas or dates to sweeten it up. You can grate onions, garlic, carrots and zucchini into tomato sauce and use it for pastas and stews. Soups are another great way to get vegetables into their little tummies: starchy veggies like sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin are usually popular with the kiddies.
Make an activity out of grocery store visits. Teach your kids why you choose specific foods and why they are good for them. Get them to select their favourite greens. Introduce them to the importance of freshness. Let them discover new foods.
Eat together as a family
Turn off the TV, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, radio and whatever else takes your attention away from being present at the meal table. Talk to your kids, ask them how their day was, discuss news events. Kids who regularly eat family meals also perform better academically, as well as enjoying better overall nutrition.
How to introduce new foods
It is completely normal for children to dislike new foods- don’t give up. Studies show that it can take at least 12 tries before a child will accept a new food. Try offering one new food at a time and serving something your child likes along with the new food. Introduce new foods at the beginning of a meal when your child is very hungry. Also, don’t use negative reinforcement- avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.
Don’t use food as a reward for good behavior. Kiss them, hug them, read a book or play a game as a reward.
Featured image courtesy of Nutritious n Delicious.