Some people tell me I’m lucky because my girls aren’t picky eaters, and perhaps they are right, but I think it has more to do with the next six tips than it does with luck.
1. Never tell them they only get dessert if they eat their greens.
I hate when parents do this. All it teaches a child is that they aren’t going to like vegetables, and the only reason to eat them is to get a treat. Teach them instead to love the veggies, because they really are delicious. Teach them to love healthy food because it is satisfying to the body, because it makes us strong, smart, and beautiful. Good food is meant for our enjoyment. We should rejoice over the joy it is to eat, and the joy it is to eat healthy. If we do this our children will too.
2. They have to take at least 1 bite, every time you make it.
I don’t expect my girls to like every vegetable. Actually, one of my daughters hates peas and loves asparagus, and the other hates asparagus and loves peas. I expect them to take one bite regardless. Then I make sure a veggie they will eat, and enjoy is also provided. The same rule applies for other foods. They don’t have to love the casserole but they do have to try it, every time it is served. The more times they are exposed to a food, the more llikely they will learn to love it.
3. Expect them to like it.
There is no reason to think a child wouldn’t like something healthy. All the great foods on this bounitious Earth are here for our benefit. We should like them and thrive from eating them, and we should expect the same for from our kids too. If it is presented with the same excitement as an ice cream sundae, that excitement will spread.
4. Teach them the benefits of eating healthy foods
If a child believes that vegetables will make them strong, maybe even as strong as Dad, or help you see better, or maybe even see through walls, or make you smarter, maybe even as smart as Einstein, or keep you from getting sick as often. I don’t think there is any harm done. It is fun and at least half factual.
My six year old knows that bones need calcium to keep them strong. She knows that she can get calcium from milk and also from lots of green vegetables like spinach. Every time she eats something that she has learned has calcium in it she makes sure to tell me that she has strong bones because of it. She also often asks for magnesium to help her milk make her bones strong. She does the same thing with beta-carotene and vitamin C. It is fun game and she is learning so much about nutrition in the process. If it is important to you it will be important to them as well.
5. Get creative
I don’t care if I have to cho-cho train every bite into a toddlers mouth, or race my daughter in cleaning our plates. I don’t care if I have to sculpt the food to look like something fun. I will do it if it helps my kids eat healthy. Everyone likes fun food. We are sold by color and variety. We go out of our way to try that one of a kind burger. Meal time shouldn’t be a chore, it should be fun family time.
6. Expose them to a large variety of foods, over and over again.
If you only serve broccoli once every six months, chances are your child will not acquire a good taste for it. Variety and frequency will not only teach them to like their veggies and other foods, but also provide a healthy variety of nutrients for their growing bodies.
7. Don’t keep unhealthy food options in the house.
If drinking soda is an option, they will drink it instead of water. If they can snack on a fruit roll up or a banana they will probably choose the fruit roll up. If you provide your kids with white bread, then they will eat it. But, alternatively if they aren’t given soda frequently, when they do try it they won’t like it. If they are always given homemade whole wheat bread, the white stuff will be left on their plate….. As for the fruit roll up, they might still pick it. But then again, maybe not.
So will these tips solve all your feeding problems? I doubt it. My kids still refuse some really awesome healthy foods, they still love some junk too. But dinner time is never a fight. And in my opinion they have a healthy relationship with their plate.
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