6 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters
Kids are notorious for being tiny, picky people. This is especially true when it comes to food.
Trying to expand their palates beyond chicken nuggets and mac & cheese can be an extremely difficult task. Don’t get me wrong, there are some days that Mac & Cheese is all I can find the energy to make because it’s quick and I know my kids will eat it (so will I for that matter…why does it have to be so good!!).
For the most part though, my kids are what I would consider pretty good eaters.
Like most parents though, there are days that I still struggle with trying to provide a balanced diet for my kids. It’s hard to choose between giving them nutritious, healthy foods versus a less healthy option that I know they’ll actually eat.
It’s an ongoing struggle but I’ve picked up a few tips along the way that have worked for us in trying to raise good little eaters.
1. Bringing Up Bebe
When I make something new that I want my kids to try, I always pair it with a favorite that I know they will eat.
For example, my kids are 50/50 on broccoli. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t. So instead of steaming it and taking a chance, I added it to two of their favorite foods: pasta and tomatoes.
That way, even if they don’t eat the broccoli, I know they’ll at least eat the other items.
3. Let Kids Help Prepare It
If kids get to help prepare part of the meal, it’s more likely that they’ll eat it because they are personally invested in it. Let them mix the sauce, prepare the salad, or whisk the dressing. It’s much more interesting to them to see what goes into making the foods that they are (hopefully) going to eat.
A fun activity is to let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable at the store. Take it home and look up ways to prepare it together. The more involved they are in the process, they more likely they are to at least try it.
4. Make Mealtime Enjoyable
When they are young, make meals fun with cute placemats, fun colored napkins, or even just fresh flowers on the table. It teaches them that eating should be an enjoyable, social experience, instead of something they “have”to do.
Eat together as a family whenever possible. How boring would it be to always sit at a table by yourself and eat without anyone else to talk to? Eating together promotes socialization and shows children the correct way to behave during mealtime.
5. Don’t Push, but Don’t Celebrate
If a child doesn’t like a certain food and refuses to eat it, don’t push it. Perhaps they really don’t like it or maybe they are just being a pain in the you know what. Either way, I don’t think it should be forced. That just creates a negative connotation with mealtime. However, that doesn’t mean get up and make them something else.
On the other hand, if a child eats a food, it doesn’t require a celebration. You can be proud of them for trying something new but I don’t think they should get a round of applause for eating a piece of broccoli. Remain neutral to show them that eating at meals is a normal part of life, not something that either requires yelling or celebration.
6. Remember it’s an Ongoing Struggle
Kids can love something one day and the very next day will look at you like you served them a pile of dirt. Their likes and dislikes change faster than anything you’ve ever seen. Try to roll with the punches and see the bigger picture. The goal isn’t for them to always eat everything you put in front of them. The goal is to expand the foods that they do eat to include healthy choices to provide them the vitamins and nutrients their little bodies need to grow.
Note – This article was originally published on this blog last year, but I updated some of the pictures and have re-published it due to increased response to the original.