It’s not always easy to get kids excited about healthy eating, but there are definitely ways to get them interested in trying different kinds of foods. Here are 10 tips to help your kids get the nutrition they deserve!
Be a Role Model
It begins with the parents. If Mom and Dad are eating healthy meals and choosing low-sugar-sweetened beverages, the kids will too. Is your kid a sports fanatic? If so, it doesn’t hurt to tell them that Stephen Curry is a Wheaties breakfast champion and Cam Newton snacks on Oikos Greek Yogurt before the big game. Score!
Avoid the Word “Healthy”
If kids hear that a food is healthy, they may shy away from it. To prevent this rejection, empower the foods you give your kids through education. Tell them that milk and cheese will help their bones get strong; broccoli and oranges may stave off the common cold, and carrots and squash can improve their eyesight. Knowledge is power!
Swap out that easily accessible cookie jar or jellybean bowl on your kitchen counter, and opt for more nutritious choices such as apples, pistachios, cherries or bunches of green and purple grapes. It will also serve as a reminder in case your kids do get hungry and need something quick and easy to munch on.
The next time you go grocery shopping with your kids, make it a game and ask them to get a fruit or vegetable from every color of the rainbow. When they are empowered to pick their own produce, they are more likely to try them.
Decisions, decisions, decisions
Let your kids have some control when it comes to their meals. For example, when making a sandwich, give them whole grain bread options to choose from such as wraps, pitas or English muffins. If you are making a smoothie, ask what fruits and vegetables they want to combine. By including your kids in these decisions, they will be more likely to eat their meals.
Give your kids some easy tasks in the kitchen (with close supervision of course!). For instance, let them wash and tear up lettuce, encourage them to sprinkle on pizza toppings, or let them stir and mix up ingredients. When they get hands on experience in the kitchen, they’ll be inclined to eat their own creations. Research shows that kids who spend more time in the kitchen choose a wider range of foods and veer towards making healthier decisions. In fact, these kids are also able to vocalize what they like and dislike, helping parents plan ahead for the future.
Wait it Out
Research shows it can take up to 15 times for your kids to try a new food. Don’t put pressure on your kids to try new foods and finish their meals. Every kid is different so wait it out and let them trust their own hunger and satiety cues.
When baking cookies, add rolled oats for a boost of fiber or use whole-wheat flour instead of white flour. When your kids smell hot, fresh and homemade healthy treats, they won’t even know the difference!
Take a trip to your local farmers market with your kids and look at the fresh produce and local products. Let them ask questions, take samples, touch and smell the food. It’s a pleasant and open atmosphere to look at the varieties of colors, shapes, sizes and the abundance of choices. Exposing kids to a variety of options can get them excited to try and take on new adventures.
Find recipes they want! Look up an ingredient on Pinterest (think apples, raisins, or avocado) and let them choose a recipe based on a picture. Watch the Cooking Channel, Food Network or YouTube videos of cooking demos to inspire your kids. Your kids — and you — may pick up a tip or two along the way!
Tracy Lockwood, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Tracy Lockwood Nutrition (www.tracylockwoodnutrition.com), is a registered dietitian and holds her master’s degree from New York University. She teaches her clients the tools on how to be happy and healthy.
Tracy specializes in pediatrics, weight management, eating disorders, food allergies, and gastrointestinal health. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, IAEDP and Greater New York Dietetic Association. She has been published in the New York Times and has been quoted in numerous publications, including Time and amNY. Tracy is a nutrition ambassador for Just Salad and Siggi’s Yogurt. She has given lectures and presentations at hospitals, schools and large corporations and has participated on expert nutrition panels in New York City.
For nutrition inquiries, you can reach out to Tracy Lockwood through her website www.tracylockwoodnutrition.com and you can follow her on Instagram @thehappiestnutritionist and on Twitter @TLNutrition.