I decided a long time ago that I was not going to play short order cook for my family. I also refuse to eat boxed macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and chicken fingers every day. Clearly, I needed to come up with a way to compromise so that my family would eat healthy without a huge amount of stress for any of us. Getting kids to eat healthy is not rocket science. It does take a little bit more effort than just driving through the Golden Arches every afternoon but in the long run you will be happy that you put in the effort. Getting kids to eat healthy NOW will ensure that they continue to eat healthy as they grow up. I know there are some adults out there that will only eat hot dogs and boxed mac and cheese but I find that incredibly sad. The world is full of flavors that I want my children to learn to enjoy. If you want to change the way your family eats, get healthy and eat a more natural diet here are some tips on getting kids to eat healthy in 2013!
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Tips for Getting Kids to Eat Healthy
1. Make the switch gradually: If you just throw away everything in the pantry one day and come home from Whole Foods with bean sprouts and quinoa you are going to have your family revolt! Getting kids to eat healthy is a SLOW process. One week, replace your regular pasta with a whole grain variety. The next week, toss the potato chips in favor of popcorn or whole grain tortilla chips. You will get a lot less resistance if you are subtle about the changes you are making.
2. Find natural alternatives to your child’s favorite treats: If you tell your child that they can never again eat an Oreo cookie you are bound to be faced with tears and tantrums. If, however, you replace their Oreos with a natural variety like Newman-O’s you will encounter a lot fewer problems. Sure, you still don’t want your kids to be eating their weight in cookies every day but by making the switch to a natural version you will be reducing the number of preservatives and artificial colors and flavors they eat. Many major organic and natural manufacturers are coming out with products that closely resemble the highly processes snacks your kids are probably used to. My son is obsessed with MIO (a portable drink flavoring that is LOADED with artificial stuff). I discovered a natural drink flavoring from Hansen’s that he really loves and he was happy to leave MIO behind in favor of a more natural product that actually tasted great.
3. Tell them WHY you are making the switch to natural foods: This one works for kids that are old enough to understand that the foods we eat efffect our bodies in lots of different ways. Show them the ingredient list on their favorite colorful cereal with marshmallows. Explain the them that those artificial colors and flavors are not really very good for us. Then, show them the ingredients on a more natural cereal. They may still resist the switch but that message WILL stay with them as they get older if you repeat it a few times.
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Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Means Finding Natural Alternatives
4. It’s not all or nothing: I try and get my family to eat healthy about 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time I indulge them in the their desire to buy school lunch, have a slurpee with their friends at the roller rink, and to sit down to a bowl of Cheetos on family movie night. I try hard to not keep junk food in my house on a day to day basis. I run to the grocery store on Friday just to pick up a bagged snack or two for my family to enjoy over the weekend. Come Monday it is gone and we are back to snacking on Wheat Thins and apple slices. I don’t want my kids to grow up feeling like an outsider among their friends because they have never eaten Doritos
5. Choose Organic: Many major brands are coming out with organic varieties of classic favorites. By choosing organic you are not only reducing your kid’s exposure to pesticides and Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs) but you are also making a choice that is good for our planet.
6. Grow it yourself: Getting kids to eat healthy is much easier if you have them help you grow it! You don’t need a huge garden bed to put in a few tomato plants and even if your yard gets very little sun you can grow spinach and several other shade loving plants. Give your kids a spade and a handful of snow peas and when those plants finally yield their crop in late spring you will be amazed at how interested they are in eating them.
7. Get your kids in the kitchen: I am adamant that both of my children learn how to cook. My daughter absolutely loves to help me in the kitchen although her brother isn’t so interested in anything but the actual eating. Buy your kids a children’s cookbook and a miniature apron and you will be well on your way to getting kids to eat healthy. When children see their hard work placed on the dinner table, it makes it that much more appealing.
8. Be a good role model: If your kids see YOU eating candy bars and soda why should they want to eat whole wheat crackers and low fat milk? Getting kids to eat healthy has to start with YOU. Let them see you making healthy choices and they will naturally follow along with you.
9. Take kids shopping with you: Yes, shopping with children can be a huge pain in the backside but you should give it a try once in a while to give them options on what goes into the cart. Be firm about what you are NOT buying but ask them if they would like apples or bananas. Or cheddar cheese or Swiss. Giving them options will let them feel like they have a say in what sort of foods they eat and you will have less resistance when you put it in front of them.
10. Make mealtime fun: Serve your raw veggies with something to dip them in, cut up sandwiches into funkey shapes, let your kids build ants on a log (that classic celery, peanut butter, and raisin combination!). Check out Fun Foods For Kids on Pinterest for some inspiration on getting kids to eat healthy by making food FUN.
Getting kids to eat healthy takes a little bit of effort but if you take these considerations into account it will go much smoother! In the long run, though, remember: YOU are the adult. You buy the food that sits in your pantry and your child will not starve if they go to bed without dinner occasionally because they decided to throw a hissy over the broccoli and grilled chicken breast. Stick to your plan and get your kids to eat healthy in 2013!
Do you have any tips for getting kids to eat healthy that I didn’t list here?
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.