One of the biggest frustrations I hear over and over again from parents is how difficult it is to get their children to eat healthy foods. Raising healthy eaters is especially challenging when you’re up against picky eating. While I don’t have the power to change picky eaters overnight, I’ve come up with a few solutions for every parent hoping to help their kids embrace healthier foods and add more variety to their diet…..
1. ROLE MODEL
Monkey see, monkey do! Children want to copy their parents, so eat the food you want your children to eat. Eat in front of them and eat with them to show what a healthy balanced diet looks like. Show them with your actions and they will eventually follow your lead.
2. EAT TOGETHER
Researchers have confirmed that sharing a family meal is good for the health of all family members. Evidence suggests that children who take part in family meals are 24% more likely to eat healthier foods. Try to sit together for at least 3 family meals per week. The entire family should sit down at the table to share a meal. If dinners don’t work for your family, pick another time to eat together.
3. CONTINUALLY INTRODUCE AND EXPOSE YOUR KIDS TO FOODS YOU KNOW ARE HEALTHY
Research shows it can take up to 8-10 times for a child to accept new foods. (Brown, J. (2014). Nutrition Through the Life Cycle, 5th ed. Wadsworth: Australia.) It is so important to continue to expose your child to new foods. To add variety to a child’s diet, DO not serve the same meal 2 days in row. So if yesterday was pasta & tomato sauce for lunch, make sure it is something different today.
4. AVOID NIBBLING
Continuously snacking all day can fill a child’s little belly making them less hungry at mealtime. Cut out snacks and high caloric drinks at least 1-2 hours before mealtime. Establish a regular but flexible meal and snack times that work for you and your family and stick to it.
5. UPGRADE WHAT THEY ALREADY KNOW AND LOVE
Try new foods or add new flavours to foods your child already enjoys. Do not be scared to Experiment in the kitchen by adding vegetables to meals they already are eating. How about making butternut squash soup, or make sweet potato chips? Do not fear condiments or spices such as vinaigrettes, olive oil, butter, cinnamon, lemon juice or fresh tomato sauce. These will help make vegetables much tastier to kids and make it easier for them to try new foods.
6. INVOLVE THEM IN THE KITCHEN (My Favourite)
Cooking is fun and can be a great way to get children involved with their own food choices. Involve them in everything from meal prep to grocery shopping. Children are great helpers in the kitchen so assign them tasks like preparing lettuce for a salad, stirring soups or stews and mixing ingredients.
7. TAKE A TRIP TO THE FARMER’S MARKET / SUPERMARKET
Foster your child’s connection to food by discussing where it comes from and how it’s grown. Plan a fun family trip to the farmer’s market and encourage them to touch and smell the foods on offer. Teach them what foods are in season…