Getting kids to eat healthy doesn't have to be complicated. You can make nutritious meals a reality by following a few simple tips.
It's virtually impossible for us to be with our kids at all times, policing the foods that are around them. Surely they are faced with less-than-nutritious options on a daily basis, so pay extra attention to the meals you can control, like breakfast and dinner. "If kids eat solid meals with protein consistently throughout the day, the sugary goodies won't make their blood sugar fluctuate so much," says Julie Negrin a kids cooking teacher, nutritionist and author of the new cookbook, Easy Meals to Cook with Kids. "They will also be full from their meals and less likely to overeat the treats."
One of the biggest factors in whether kids eat healthy is their participation in the preparation. "Involving kids in the meal preparation is the best way to get kids to eat healthier foods and try new ingredients," says Negrin. "Cook with them, look through cookbooks together, take them to the farmers market and have them help set the table with special serving platters, place mats, napkins, serving platters and decorations that they helped choose." Making daily meals special encourages good manners and eating habits.
If you practice healthy eating, chances are, your kids will too. If you're not the best eater, consider examining your own relationship with food or adopting some new habits. "Modeling healthy habits is key," says Lauren O'Connor, M.S., a registered dietitian and mom of twin toddlers. "An example is keeping healthy staples in the house such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains and low fat proteins." Let your kids see you chomping on good-for-you-snacks that are prepared and ready to go so that a bag of chips doesn't look inviting.
It's easy for moms to get stuck in a rut when it comes to providing healthy foods. After all, we can only cut so many carrot and celery sticks. When we run out of ideas, our kids often run for the junk. The solution? "Have snack items pre-chopped and readily available to eat or assemble," says O'Connor. "Pairing snacks can be easy. Try crunchy yogurt parfaits using different fruits and nuts or cereals each time. Let your child be involved in shopping and preparing healthier choices whether it is snacks, meals or making healthy holiday treats." The key is to make healthy food fun!
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