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How to encourage kids to make smart food choices

How to... Raise healthy eaters

While recipes that hide fruits and veggies in your kids’ favorite foods get them to eat well, sneaky tactics don’t teach them how to make their own smart food choices. Instead, encourage your kids to make healthier decisions with these simple steps.

Little girl eating vegetablesStep 1: Set a positive example

If your kids see you choose a candy bar over a healthy snack -- say, hummus and carrots -- they are more likely to choose an unhealthy option, too. Eat by example. Skip the drive thru, don't skip meals and allow your kids to learn to make smart food choices by following your lead.

Step 2: Explain what they're eating -- and why

Kids don't want to be treated like, well, kids! Help motivate them to make smart food choices by giving them grown-up lessons while you cook and eat. Explain why you make stir fry with brown rice instead of white. Teach them that you choose lean protein to keep them strong and fiber-filled veggies to help them feel full. You won't always be there when they're deciding what to eat (think: birthday parties or the cafeteria line). Empower them with explanations to help them understand how to choose healthy food on their own.

Step 3: Cook together

Make healthy eating fun. Cook dinner or weekend brunch together. If they're old enough, allow them to peel carrots or simply set and monitor a kitchen timer. Get them in the act of cooking. Let them taste-test and embellish along the way. If they enjoy the process and feel pride for helping prepare a healthy meal, they'll be more inclined to sit at the table and actually eat it.

Step 4: Let them choose

Instead of negotiating number of bites per vegetable before your child can get up from the dinner table, allow your kids to pick what they want to eat -- within limits. Present a few options. For example, ask if they'd prefer carrots or broccoli. Steamed or raw? Dip or salad dressing? Allowing your kids to make their own choice from a set of healthy options helps them feel empowered while you're guiding them to pick a healthy side.

Step 5: Teach them that healthy doesn't mean yucky

Show your kids that healthy eating can taste good. Offer a plate full of berries with chocolate dipping sauce for dessert. Whip up a cheese sauce to top a side of steamed broccoli. Many kids think healthy means a tasteless lump of vegetables. Prove them wrong, and they'll approach food with a little more open-mindedness.

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For more info on this topic...For more household tips, check out:
Super Moms guide to cleaning & cooking for the family

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