When kids feel they have some control over their food choices, they're more likely to look forward to the meals you prepare. You can give them control while also teaching them about the benefits of healthy eating by framing their healthy dinner choices creatively. For instance, you could say, "Would you like whole wheat pasta with a heart-healthy tomato sauce or would you like to fill up on vitamins and minerals with a fiber-rich black bean soup?" Not only will they get to choose the meal for the night, they'll also start to understand the benefits of the healthy foods you serve.
If you start forbidding "bad" foods in your house, your kids will probably just find creative ways to indulge when you're not around. Rather than making certain foods off limits, start teaching your kids the importance of balance. For instance, if your child wants to order fried chicken strips at a local restaurant, agree, but play the "if this, then that" game. Say, "If you choose the chicken strips, then you need to choose a healthier option to balance your meal." You can then provide your child with healthy choices like a fruit bowl or steamed veggies. After you agree on several healthy options, add mystery to the game by writing the options on napkins and placing them behind your back for him or her to choose at random. You can continue the game through dinner by encouraging your child to match every bite of chicken strip with a bite of the healthier food.
When a child starts to understand the process of cooking and serving a meal, he or she will be more likely to develop an appreciation for the food consumed. By inviting your kids into the kitchen, you can take the time to teach them the process of healthy cooking while also explaining why you cook the way you do. Once a child understands that you drain the fat off of browned ground beef in order to cut down on artery-clogging saturated fat, he or she will be more likely to appreciate and apply your methods later in life. Similarly, you can show your child how to sneak extra fruits and veggies into their diet by making simple additions and substitutions to favorite recipes. By sharing these tricks and tips with your child, he or she will be less likely to view "hidden veggies" as suspicious or covert, understanding that they're simply there to make the dinner healthier.
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