6 ways to encourage kids to eat healthy food
Mother of 3 shares her tips on getting kids to eat healthy.
One of the ongoing frustrations that many parents have is the battle with their children over healthy eating. With all of the marketing of junk food that is directed toward children, it’s no wonder that they tend to turn up their noses at the healthy food choices that we offer. Walk through any supermarket and it’s easy to see that the sugary, “fun” snacks and treats are right at their eye level, just begging to be picked up and dropped into the cart.
So what’s a parent to do? Lucky for us, all hope is not lost. Here are some things that you can do to make healthy food fun for them.
1. Start them young.
If you want to get kids to eat healthy, you have to start early. One mistake that parents seem to make is assuming that their children will not like certain healthy foods. Because of this they don’t even offer them. For instance, why does spinach get such a bad rap? All three of my children like raw spinach, and I attribute that to the fact that we put it on their plates in the first place. My policy is that they have to try a food at least two times before they decide that they really don’t like it. You know what? Sometimes they change their minds, too. One month they hate cucumbers and the next they like them, so don’t give up! Most importantly, offer healthy foods to your children right from the start. Don’t assume that your toddler won’t eat vegetables. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
2. Let your children see you get excited about healthy foods.
This is one of our favorite strategies to encourage healthy eating in kids, because it helps you stay healthy too! Model healthy eating for them and they’ll follow your lead. If your favorite meal’s name has a number sign in front of it and comes super sized, then you can hardly expect them to get excited about healthy eating. Our children need to see us getting excited about fresh and healthy, real food! They learn from us, so let’s teach by example.
3. Take a trip to your local farmers market.
Everyone loves a farmers market. Where else can you see fruits and vegetables displayed quite as beautifully? It’s so important to let our children know that their food is grown by real people who make their living off of the land, and even to have the chance to meet and talk to those people. At a farmers market you can feel and taste samples of the food and kids LOVE samples. Our kids love our trips to the farmers market and love shopping for fresh food with me there.
4. Grow an herb garden.
You might live in an apartment or you might live in a house, or a condo. Wherever you live, it’s possible to have a garden. Start small with an herb garden. They’re easy to grow, difficult to mess up, and your kids will get the joy of seeing something that they have planted growing right before their eyes. With attention, sunlight, water and a lot of love (OK, I just threw that one in there for the kids) they will have a little garden to call their own.
5. Let your kids plan and help prepare some meals.
Give them a little bit of guidance regarding what their choices are, but let them decide what the final meal will be. Talk about what kind of meal they want to plan. Is it vegetarian? Are you going to use fresh foods from the farmers market or food from the grocery store? What about frozen veggies… are they just as good? There are so many things that we can teach our children just in the meal planning. Then use some of the herbs that they have grown! Letting them have a say in the process will make it more likely that they will get excited about the healthy meal that they have chosen. That’s exciting for you too, mom!
6. Read a book!
There are so many books out there (both classics and recently published) that encourage kids to eat healthy and get them excited about good nutritious foods. Remember “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey? What a beautifully illustrated book. I don’t know any child who doesn’t love that book. “Strega Nona” by Tomie dePaola is a wonderful book about gardening, messy gardening and neat gardening. It’s great fun when the reader uses silly italian accents when reading (trust me on that one). Books about healthy food can be such a beautiful way to get your children excited about healthy eating, and in the meantime you are spending quality time with them and building their reading skills. Their teachers will thank you.
This post was written by Jenny Yarbrough, a wife and mother raising three beautiful children in Nashville. She stays busy homeschooling, sewing, designing patterns and writing, among the many other things that mothers and wives do each and every day. You might find her sitting with her daughter at a local coffee shop, sipping a yummy drink and poring over schoolbooks, but rarely will you find her just sitting around.