For lunch, they snatched that bag of Doritos and left the bag of carrots behind. By the evening, you’re sure that they could win a drinking contest if the liquid of choice was Pepsi.
While your kids might still be half your size, if they’re like most American kids, they are consuming significantly more sugar than the average adult.
Why is it so difficult to get kids to eat healthy, whole foods?
Is it the ingredients themselves? Yes—kids can develop a relationship with junk food that looks a lot like other addictions in adults, making it hard for them to even get close to eating a vegetable or fruit.
Is it the junk food ads bombarding your kids at every turn like social media and tv? Probably. Media food marketing to children is unregulated in the U.S and directly targets those young minds with messages all about sugar.
Helping your family make healthier choices can feel like a losing battle. I mean, what child in their right mind would pick celery over cereal?
Guiding your children towards healthy options takes time and patience, but it’s worth it. Soon, you won’t hear a scream for ice cream. They’ll wail for kale, screech for a peach, and shout for more brussels sprouts.
Give your kids the best chance at a long and vibrant life by creating a healthy and kid-friendly kitchen. Try out these six strategies that can work wonders in your kids’ daily diets.
Kids have a natural desire to assert their burgeoning independence at every opportunity. Your daughter might be just as determined to wear her tutu to swim class as she is to have ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While kids might not make the best decisions, you can give them meal choices within certain boundaries.
Give them a chance to make their own decisions by presenting a few healthy options at every meal. Asking your kids, “would you like carrots or cauliflower” will more likely result in a cheerful child than forcing them to eat the only option you have.
Providing options and choices to your kids will help them feel involved in their meals. They’ll develop ownership over their healthy choices and see healthy food as something they want to pick rather than something they have to get through.
You want your child to be healthy, mentally sharp, and happy. At times, it can be tempting to overload your child’s plate with nutritious options, but choose your combinations wisely and ease your kids into healthy eating.
If your son doesn’t like broccoli or squash, don’t put both options on his plate. If your daughter resists veggies, give her a leg up by making some green beans and adding them to her favorite, less-healthy side, like mac and cheese.
Sauces, soups, and smoothies are your friends when trying to sneak healthy foods into your kids’ daily diets. If your daughter won’t touch chicken, try some ketchup, BBQ sauce, or another flavorful topping to make it more appealing. Blend a bit of cooked zucchini or kale into soup broth before adding your other ingredients. Toss a handful of spinach into their strawberry-banana smoothie, and they won’t taste the difference.
Cook with your kids! With more time in the kitchen, your kids will develop an appreciation for the work and care that goes into a meal that they won’t gain from snacking on microwaved pizza bites. Kids learn by touching, tasking, seeing, feeling, and listening. Engage all their senses in the kitchen, and celebrate healthy, delicious, whole food with them.
Allow your kids to be involved and included in this part of the day. While they join you at the kitchen island, they’ll also learn the basics of cooking. Older kids can make their own salad with the toppings they think sound the best. Younger kids can hold measuring cups and stir. These kitchen tasks will give your kids a sense of ownership and pride around the healthy meal you make together.
Cooking together also offers a relaxed environment to discuss nutrition. Talk with them about their favorite fruits and veggies. Take note of what they like and incorporate those ingredients more in your meals. Give them the tactile and hands-on experience of making healthy and tasty dishes. Cooking with them will form long-lasting and positive memories, not only with you but also with nutritious food.
When we’re shuttling kids to and from their school, sports, and friends’ houses, it’s easy to cut corners during dinner time. Meal prepping and eating the same items on repeat has worked well for us and our personal health, so we can easily forget to switch things up for the kids. Making the same dishes every week can result in a boring dining experience and limit our kid’s exposure to different tastes and textures.
On the other hand, if your dining room table is full of different flavors, you’ll help keep your kids from developing picky preferences. If you’re stuck on basic protein like beef and chicken, consider switching it up for fish or tofu. Give your kids a chance with these new foods—you’d be surprised what kids will eat if they see their parents’ loving the same meal.
Change up the delivery of your ingredients as well. Try tofu dumplings on Tuesday, ground chicken lettuce wraps on Wednesday, and fish tacos on Friday. Keep the healthy options fresh, new, and exciting so your kids look forward to what interesting meal is coming up next.
It’s no surprise to us parents that kids, in general, love their sweets. Cookies, candy, and soda are the quickest foods to catch a kid’s eye. A sweet tooth, though, might not be your kid’s fault. Scientific evidence shows that we’re all hardwired at birth to prefer sweeter foods.
This biological drive for intense sweetness (as well as intense saltiness) is strongest during the rapid growth of infanthood and childhood. If unhealthy habits aren’t established, these cravings eventually wear off after late adolescence.
So, don’t be the parent that bans sweets altogether. If you do, your kids’ biological sweet tooth will come back to bite you and indulge heavily in sweets whenever it gets the chance. With some sweets in your home, you can teach your children to enjoy treats in moderation when they’re with friends, at school, or making their own meals and snacks.
While many kids do have a natural inclination to go after sugar and processed foods, educating them on healthy meal or snack choices can go a long way. You don’t need to sit them down and give them a high school health class lesson, but you can teach them simply by example.
Kids pay much more attention to their parents than you may think. Raw fish may sound like the last thing a kid would want, but if her parents drool over sushi, she’ll learn that this dinner is a delicious indulgence. If parents savor dark chocolate and talk about it like it’s a luxury treat, kids will see the dark chocolate piece in the bag of candy and grab it first.
The more you can implement whole food and healthy eating into your daily diet, the more they will too. Give your kids opportunities to learn more about the food they eat by making it fun, talking about it, and gushing over the flavors and textures of healthier options.
Remember, teaching your kid to eat well and make healthy choices won’t happen in one day. It’s a constant mission, and the more you can adopt a healthy lifestyle yourself, the more you can pass healthy habits down. Give these practices a try this week, keep it up throughout the month, and set a new tone of health for your whole family.
As a parent, you want the best for your kids. Stay strong and energized by joining the next LEAN Session so that you can take care of yourself and your family. Until then, hop on our weekly newsletter—we’ll send our top health tips straight to your inbox so you can keep moving forward in your health journey.