Getting your kids to eat healthy food can often seem like a Battle Royale…
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Kids love to emulate their parents, but they are equally influenced by their peers and environment – it’s a constant struggle.
For my daughter, this “battle of wits” began when she turned four. Prior to that, she pretty much ate everything I gave her: organic fruit and vegetables, whole grains, yogurt and wild-caught fish. And, she was never given soda, “chicken” nuggets or the like…period.
However, when she began attending pre-K where sugary, nutritionally void snacks were standard fare, her tastebuds changed. Likewise, secret fast-food trips with grandparents often tempted my kid over to the dark side.
As her mom, though, I insisted on holding the line. When it comes to her health, I felt this battle was one worth fighting for. Since forcing her to eat foods she “hated” was near-nigh impossible, I decided to reason with her…
And it worked.
First, I explained to my daughter why eating certain foods were not only unhealthy for her, but what exactly was in her food, how it was produced, as well as how animals were raised. I quickly learned what healthy foods she did enjoy – berries, carrots, avocado, salmon, yogurt – to build a foundation for nutritious meal planning. Eating most of her veg raw (vs cooked) also made a big difference.
Likewise, she observed first-hand my own healthy eating habits. This was, surprisingly, the best incentive she had for trying new foods. Both kale and spinach, greens I eat every day, she asked to try without any prompting from me. Sushi is her favorite meal (same as me). Wild-caught fish, such as sardines, salmon and tuna, is a regular school lunch request. And whole grains, like amaranth, quinoa and rice, are staple dinner options for us.
Another win-win is to make exceptions for moderation – not every day, but certainly at times. My daughter still gets treats and as long as they are made with real wholesome food – no artificial flavors or preservatives – I’m good. I learned to modify recipes for her favorite treats, like cookies and pancakes, substituting healthier, nutrient-dense ingredients. Always opting to buy her dark chocolate (from a very young age), she now politely refuses to eat milk chocolate. (Yay!)
The bottom line is this: don’t force your kids to eat foods they hate. Educate them about food and be willing to try a variety of healthy options, as well as different ways to eat food (ie. raw vs cooked). And, most importantly, set a good example – eat healthy foods yourself.
Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for…