I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "My kids won't eat vegetables," or "Children just don't like healthy food." Both statements are overgeneralized. Of course children have preferences, but I believe parents do their children a great disservice by assuming that the children find most healthy, natural, nutritious abhorrent. If your child does not like getting immunized, would you allow her to skip her shots? If your child does not like school would you allow him to stay at home with you all day (without planning to homeschool)? I'm fairly sure that most parents would answer no to these questions. Yet many parents will allow their children to go days without eating a fresh piece of fruit or a vegetable with each meal. Why?
Are they negligent parents? Are they too busy to care about their childrens health and well-being? Do they lack love for their kids? Of course not! Many of my friends and family members fall into the group of parents who don't believe their children will eat what's best for them and I know that they go out of their way for their children to have the best of everything. Yet somehow, eating the best food is not a top priority.There is nothing wrong with these parents or their children. They just need a little practice and some support in making healthier food choices. Here are a few suggestions for getting your kids to eat fresh, healthy foods...and to enjoy doing it!
1. Start when they are babies. After an infant is about 6 months old, he is ready to start adding solid foods to his diet. Most families begin with rice cereal, then gradually add other cereals and strained fruits and vegetables. This is the time to get your child's palette ready for the different flavors that fruits and vegetables present. Don't be discouraged when he spits the strained squash out. It doesn't always mean he doesn't like the taste. Sometimes it's the texture. Sometimes he just wants to see your reaction. Keep trying, adding one new food per week (to watch for allergic reactions.)
2. Set the example. You are your child's first teacher. She is listening to you to learn how to talk. She is watching you to learn different mannerisms and facial expressions. She's aware of your emotions and learns to mimic them. She mimics your eating habits too! If you only eat deep fried foods with sugary drinks's, she will learn that behavior. Likewise, if she sees you enjoying fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and other minimally refined foods, her eating habits will mirror yours.
3. Make it fun. Take the kids to the market with you and allow them to choose some of the produce. Find kid friendly recipe's and let them help you prepare the meal. One of my children's favorites is the garden pizza. I buy a plain cheese pizza at the grocery store, then ask the kids to pick what they want from the garden for our pizza. I slice everything, put it on a tray and let the kids top the pizza with their choice of red onions, bell peppers, hot peppers, basil, oregano, tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, shallots, chives or whatever else they choose. They feel like they made dinner and they love eating it. Now some of their friends want to come over just to make garden pizza. If you don't have a garden just let the children pick their favorite toppings from the produce section.
4. Be creative. Sometimes it seems that no matter what you try, some children won't eat some foods. Don't give up. If your son doesn't like broccoli, try green beans. If your daughter doesn't like carrots, try spinach. Try different ways of cooking vegetables. You can steam, grill or stir-fry vegetables to maintain their bright colors, crisp texture and the best possible flavor. Try mixing veggies in with favorites like macaroni and cheese or sliced hot dogs. Make a game out of who eats the most fruit and vegetables in a week. You could even help your children grow their own food. Plants like tomatoes, peppers and strawberries grow pretty easily in traditional gardens, raised gardens and pots. They'll take great pride in growing something that can be shared with the family (or having a special fruit or vegetable just for themselves). Eating fresh, healthy food should never be a chore so make it as enjoyable as you can.
5. Shop wisely. Ten individual sized bags of chips are often cheaper than ten oranges. A gallon of punch costs much less than a gallon of 100% fruit juice. Food is becoming more expensive every day, forcing parents to make difficult choices about what they feed their kids. But there are ways to eat healthy when the budget is tight. If fresh vegetables won't fit into this months budget, try replacing canned veggies with frozen ones. Most frozen vegetables have not been cooked and contain no sodium so they are healthier than their canned counterparts. The same goes for canned fruit versus frozen fruit. If you prefer the convenience of canned fruit try to avoid those that are packaged with heavy syrup. It's all sugar. For fresh produce, try your local farmers market instead of the grocery store. The food at the farmers market usually has a shorter distance to travel so the price of gas, a truck driver and a refrigerated vehicle aren't included in the price of the produce. Of course for the biggest savings, you could try growing some of your own food.
Our Son Enjoying A Salad