How to Help Your Kids Eat Healthy Meals

It seems to be a universal problem – getting kids to eat healthy foods and fewer high sugar, high-fat snacks. How many children do you know who would choose a plate of vegetables over a plate of fries for instance? It can seem like the more you try to get them eating nutritious food, the more they resist, even claiming not to like meals they have eaten in the past.
Instead of getting more healthy food into them, you can start to feel like they’re eating fewer and fewer nutritious foodstuffs. Is it possible to change this pattern, and how can you make your kids enthusiastic about eating their greens?

Know your child nutrition

Before you start worrying about your child’s diet, make sure you know what the recommendations are for kids at each stage of their development. For instance, young children need full-fat milk rather than skimmed, and higher rates of certain vitamins and minerals. It’s essential to know what is best for your child nutritionally, so you can manage their nutrient intake and ensure they receive the most appropriate diet for their age.

Hiding the veggies

If your kids don’t know what they’re eating, you can increase their vegetable intake without them even knowing. One of the easiest ways to do this is to add chopped or pureed vegetables to pasta sauce. The redness of the tomatoes hides the color of many vegetables, although leafy greens would darken the sauce and are strong enough in flavor and smell to overwhelm the tomato. Carrots, swede, cauliflower, and peas are particularly good for blending into sauces.

Using the right veggies

Kids tend to prefer sweet flavors, so if you serve a portion of vegetables, use ones that are naturally sweet, like carrots, peas or petit pois, mange tout, tomatoes, and sweetcorn. You can also try some exotic or unusual fruits and vegetables to see if the kids find something they like. Your son may loathe apples and bananas perhaps, but love the taste of Kiwi fruits.

Food art

Younger kids and toddlers often find food that’s been arranged to make a picture is more appealing. For instance, cutting dinosaur shapes from a sandwich, or making a smiley face in a bowl of oatmeal with berries and banana slices.

Getting kids involved in cooking

It can be a messy endeavor, but cooking with kids is a great way to get them connected to their food. If you choose fairly simple recipes to start with and make the process fun and exciting, the kids will enjoy cooking and want to do more. They’re also more likely to want to eat what they’ve made themselves.

Transform fast food ideas into healthy meals

Fast food and takeouts are notorious for their high levels of fat and excess calories, but their appeal to kids is undeniable. Home-made versions can be made with fewer unhealthy ingredients and are usually far better for your kids than bought meals. There are some excellent kids cookbooks available, or you could browse through kid-friendly recipes online. You’ll get some helpful tips on incorporating healthy foods into less healthy sounding meals, for example making home-made burgers or pizza.

Get kids to grow their own food

Growing vegetables and fruits can be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, with the bonus of the being able to harvest the freshest, tastiest produce you can get a few months down the line. Start your kids off with simple, fast-growing crops like salads, peas, carrots, beans, and strawberries to begin with, so the tasks don’t seem arduous and results don’t take too long to achieve. Watching a bean plant grow in a jar of water is a time-honored way of enabling kids to see how a seed develops into a plant, and it’s a lot of fun too.

Go on a foraging walk

The fields and hedgerows are full of fruits and edible plants that can be harvested and added to home-cooked meals, and having a family outing to find and pick them can be a good idea for a fun day out. You must be sure you know what is safe to eat and what isn’t, and if you aren’t sure, join an organized foraging experience so you can ensure no-one eats anything harmful.

Budgeting for healthier living

Parents who are on a budget often worry that healthy foods are more expensive, but this isn’t necessarily the case, so don’t assume healthy equals expensive. There’s no better investment than spending money on health and wellbeing, so buying cooking equipment, gardening tools and seeds, or paying for a cookery class or field trip are excellent ways to invest in your family’s future. If money is tight, look for a financial advice service or credit brokerage that helps you manage your income and borrowings so that you have a few extra dollars to spend on your family’s health.

Discipline and reward

Some parents decide the best approach is a Draconian one – the child eats their dinner or goes hungry.
Variations on this approach are to say your child can’t have dessert if they don’t eat all their main course; or that if they eat all their food, they can have a treat. There are doubts as to whether these strategies are the best ways to tackle the problem because your child could develop an unhealthy relationship with their food that leads to a range of eating disorders as they grow older.
You know there isn’t going to be a single, fool-proof way of getting your kids to want healthy meals; if there were, it would be national news! There are however some strategies you can try that could help. You might need to persevere before achieving results, and you might need to try different ideas or combined strategies before you find one that works for you, and you may even have to use different approaches with different kids. Above all, don’t get overstressed yourself, just do the best you can!

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