I know a mother who feeds her child just about nothing but chicken nuggets. She complains that he won’t eat anything else, so to get him to eat, she feeds him what he ‘wants.’ The problem with this and any child who only eats this or that, is that if we as parents limit what we feed our child, he/she will only eat those foods. I guarantee that it has a lot to do with the parent’s attitude toward food choices as well, but kids WILL eat when they are hungry. Don’t provide the unhealthy food, and they can’t eat it! A child may go hungry for even a whole meal (this is not harmful to them for one meal), but no doubt, when the next healthy meal comes along, they will eat if they are hungry! It is so vital to their nutrition and health to introduce them early to many vegetables and fruits. If a child never has an unhealthy chicken nugget full of preservatives, and saturated fats, he will never know the difference. This parent introduced a chicken nugget to her child early in life, but I’m sure if she introduced better choices early in life, he would learn to love them too – even without having to put ketchup on it!
10 Tips: What you can do to get your child to eat healthy food – and like it!
- Let them help - Get them in the garden with you (or produce section of the store) and teach them what the different vegetables are. Pick one and let her make it with you in the kitchen. She will have ownership in the process and get excited to try what ‘she has made’.
- Make it fun – Cut up all sorts of vegetables of many colors, display it in a fun dish, and get a variety of dipping sauces for them. They will want to try them out.
- Let them choose – Let them decide what vegetables they want for dinner.
- Surprise them – Add spinach to lasagna, or cooked carrots or squash, cut small, into macaroni and cheese. There are a lot of ways you can sneak the good stuff in.
- Make smoothies with vegetables and fruits – Start with less veggies and more fruits – they’ll never know it is there. Then gradually introduce more veggies and less fruit.
- Vegetarian night – Pick one night a week where you consistently ONLY have a variety of vegetables, cooked and raw. Make it fun, and delicious. Make this the one night that you set the table perfectly, with the good dishes. Possibly even have candles or other decorations that tells everyone at the table – “wow – this is a special night of the week”. Call the night “Family Fun Night” or make up a better name. You don’t even have to mention that all you are serving is vegetables, just make it enjoyable!
- Wrap it – Kids will eat just about anything inside a tortilla. Use a whole wheat tortilla and fill it with shredded chicken, spinach, some shredded carrots, diced tomatoes, a little cheese and salsa or homemade ranch dressing.
- Be their role model – Kids learn by watching your eating habbits. You can never expect your child to do something willingly that you are not doing yourself. When you eat your vegetables, voice how much you love them, express excitement, “Yay – I get to eat my green beans”! Their enthusiasm and positive attitude will set the tone for how they will react when trying a new food.
- Limit Snacking – If kids eat a snack too close to dinner time, they will not feel hungry enough to eat the healthy food, and will fight you more. If they are good and hungry, they will be more open to trying new things!
- Say "No” without saying "NO" – When your kids ask you for an unhealthy snack – say “I have something better for you”! You can always say “YES” if you keep healthy snacks on hand so you can always offer a better alternative to satisfy their cravings for a snack or something sweet. If all they hear is “NO!” to everything, it will become a negative experience.