Teaching your children to consume healthy meals now will reap lifetime benefits. Most parents strive to serve nutritious food, but struggle with getting their children to eat well. While sweet and salty snacks are kid favorites, parents can slowly get children excited at the sight of fresh leafy greens and apples, too. Many times when an adult is eating something that looks interesting, children become curious. This is the first step to raising healthy eaters.
“Simply have the food available either on their plate or on the table,” says Sandi Thompson, a nutritional therapy practitioner and certified wellness coach. “Eat the food yourself to give the child confidence that it is not so unique that you wouldn’t eat it too.’’
Thompson gives a few tips on how to introduce healthier options to children:
Get the child involved. If there is preparation involved in making the food and it’s age-appropriate for the child to help, get them involved. Make that time together fun and avoid stressful situations, and you’ll find that the child will be willing to help and to taste.
Don’t add any extra flavor to food. Allow the natural taste of the food to dominate — not condiments, seasonings or sweetened additions. Keeping food simple, especially for younger children, can be key to their enjoyment.
Start separating. Many kids like separation of various foods on their plates. They often don’t do well with casseroles initially. Try to keep their portions small and praise them for trying new foods, even if they don’t want more. It’s a process, not a race.
Teaching children to pick and eat healthier food can be like a roller coaster. One minute your child likes the food, the next minute they don’t even want to look at it. It will be an easier process if the parents are consuming nutritious options, or at least trying for the sake of their child. It’s definitely not going to be easy if you’re on one side of the table eating the same foods and your child is told to eat something entirely different. Children are always curious about what their parents are eating.
Consuming the same healthy meals as your child will help them to become more confident in what you’re saying. They will start to think that the food must be healthy because their mom or dad is eating it too. So whenever you’re having a family day out, bring a cooler with healthy options for the entire family. That way no one will be tempted to order less nutritional fare.
Here’s Thompson’s advice for creating healthy meals on the go:
Plan ahead. Make enough for more than one meal, and either wrap it up and refrigerate it with a plan on how to incorporate it into another meal later in the week, or freeze it.
Slow Cook. Use a slow cooker and start the food in the morning to have it ready in the evening. Gather all the ingredients for the food, say stew or soup, the night before and put everything in the slow cooker. Every day something different can be prepared in a slow cooker and the leftovers can be frozen for another meal, or when you need something in a pinch.
Take complicated out of your recipes. If you need to buy pre-cooked chicken, for example, to make a dish, then buy a whole chicken, use the meat and then use the carcass for a soup. Have plenty of seasonal vegetables on hand, such as carrots, onions, celery and garlic. These need very little preparation to go into a slow cooker or a pot of soup.
Frozen is okay. Make sure you know the hierarchy of nutrition: fresh is best, followed by frozen and then canned. You can purchase many foods that are flash frozen if you don’t have time to prepare fresh food. Read labels and look for frozen foods to be low in sodium. Salt free is the best option, and you can add your own salt. Try to purchase organic whenever possible to keep the toxin levels as lower for you and your children.
Getting your child interested in healthier options is easier than it seems. When we train our children to eat a certain way, they end up passing down the same bad habits to their children. Why not end the cycle now? Teach your child that there are many options to choose from; they don’t have pick from just McDonalds or Burger King!
Written for girlstalk.com