Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are not always the most popular items on the plate. It is difficult for items like oatmeal to compete with sugary cereals that come in bright boxes and contain a free prize inside. Mealtime moments with the family offer more than just a time for feedings. With every mouthful of food you give to your kids, there is an opportunity to share new, healthy food choices and flavors. Of course, convincing your little one to venture into new food territory isn’t always easy. Here are a few ideas that may help to ease your kids into healthy eating habits.
Find creative ways to package healthy choices
Go beyond steamed cauliflower and dinner salads to get your child to eat her vegetables. Try turkey taco salads with salsa instead of dressing on Taco Tuesdays. Or make pita pizzas with fresh veggie toppings for a movie night instead of ordering a pizza delivery.
Make mealtime about more than just a meal
Getting everyone around the table is not always easy, but while you have the family together, have some fun! Ask your kids to make special table decorations for the night. Break out the sprinkles and birthday cake candles for a fruit and yogurt parfait. Keep the time together more about fun and less about clean plate pressure.
Improve upon trusted favorites
If macaroni and cheese is a crowd pleaser, then try adding vegetables like spinach, broccoli or peas to it. Look for places where you can make substitutions without much notice, like switching from white to wheat bread or to brown rice or whole grain pasta.
Let the picky eaters do the picking
Make your kids responsible for coming up with healthy meal ideas for the family. Have them help prepare and share their dishes, so they can be proud of the choices made for each culinary creation. Even the most discriminating little eaters are likely to ask for seconds of their own creative masterpiece.
Have dessert with dinner
Ditch the idea of offering a less-than-healthy reward for eating the required quantities of healthier food. Instead, offer dessert as part of a meal, sliding it right next to the sweet potatoes. Better to offer the oatmeal cookie, fresh fruit or pudding cup up front, rather than encourage your kid to eat after he or she is already full, ignoring the hunger cues provided by the body.
Lead by example
Show your little guy or girl that making healthy choices is just part of life. Don’t make eating fruits and vegetables an unusual occurrence that is emphasized once or twice a week. Offer healthy choices consistently — making them the rule, rather than the exception.
More tips to encourage healthy eating habits