While adults are looking to the new year to begin new habits that most often include losing weight and/or eating healthier, it’s also a good time to look at what your kids are eating too.
My 6-year-old daughter is pretty good about eating her veggies, but it took a while to get to this point with a little trial and error. Here are some things we’ve done to get her to make healthy choices.
1. Give kids something to dip food into (veggie dip, ketchup, bbq sauce, nut or seed butter, etc).
2. Offer food in the order you want them to eat it (protein and veggies first; carbs, fruits and treats last).
3. Plate food in a way that makes it special:
- Make a fun shape (like an animal or funny face)
- Create a rainbow and try to find something of every color they will eat… tomatoes, carrots, yellow peppers, green beans, blueberries and grapes… and more!
- Keep everything the same color!
- Use a special plate/bowl, spoon, chopsticks, etc. Sometimes my daughter likes to use baby brother’s spoon for her applesauce… I say, whatever gets the job done!
- Put a face on it. For “Talk Like a Pirate Day”, I drew a pirate face on a banana and the kids at school thought that was the funniest thing.
4. Let your child try something even if you don’t think they’re going to like it (and keep that thought to yourself so you don’t let your opinions affect theirs). My daughter eats raw onions by the handful and I never would have guessed she would like mussels!
5. Serve food prepared in different ways to find out if it’s just preparation they don’t like or truly that particular food. My daughter hates raw broccoli but loves it cooked. Meanwhile, my husband doesn’t like it mushy, so I lightly steam it to make both of them happy. She also likes her carrots raw and her peas still frozen!
6. Offer choices of two or three vegetables and let them choose the one they want... peas, cucumber, or carrots today?
7. Have your child help acquire the food, like taking them picking for seasonal fruits and veggies. We love strawberry and blueberry picking! You can also let them help pick things out at the store.
8. Let your child prepare their own food. I recently let my daughter start making her own sandwiches and they have been the “best” sandwiches she has ever eaten (or so she says!). You can also find kid-safe knives so they can help cut things up.
9. Write a "recipe" or "menu" with your child and then let him/her follow it to make their own lunch or snack. This might be a list of ingredients to use for the “recipe” or the list of food to put on their plate for the “menu”. (See photo below for a sample of my daughter’s “recipe” for pancake sandwiches that she wrote to tell her teacher.)
Here are some ideas for food that are simple to write a “recipe” for and also simple enough for some kids to prepare on their own:
- Sandwiches (PBnJ, cheese, turkey/ham, etc.)
- Pancake sandwiches
- Ants on a log
- Sliced apples with peanut butter
The “recipe” for ants on a log might look like this:
“Put peanut butter and raisins on the celery.” (If they want to write the directions part. They can be more specific too.)
Get creative and try new things! That might mean that mom or dad try something they think they don't like too!