Got a kid or kids that could live on a diet of pasta, chicken nuggets, and ketchup? I’ve made plenty of meals that have ended up on the floor for the dog to eat. I’ll skip over the obvious cutting out sugar, junk food, and blah, blah, blah because you all know that one. I want to tell you about what I do to engage my kids and help get them on board to eating healthy.
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I completely underestimated how much my kids would love to eat on something fun. I have a bunch of plates and bowls for them on one of our bottom shelves. They can pick their plate for their meal and it seems to make them a little more open to eating whatever is on it. Everything apparently is more appealing when there’s a dinosaur involved!
The Golden Rule
There’s only one rule in my kitchen, which mostly applies right now to my 6 year old daughter because my 2 year old son is…well, he’s 2. The golden rule is if something is on your plate that’s new, take ONE BITE. Just try it. You don’t have to like it, just try it.
I’ll put literally one piece of something new on their plates to try. I remember that my daughter didn’t want to try a red pepper and she had exactly one little piece on her plate along with one piece of red onion and one piece of yellow pepper. I told her she had to try one of those three things–her choice. She took a teeny tiny nibble of the red pepper and ended up taking another nibble. She told me it was actually good. I’ve gotten them to try a lot of food this way. The super small quantity isn’t overwhelming and just trying it (yep, they can spit it out if they don’t like it) is working for us.
I should mention that if there’s a huge fuss about it, I don’t push it. I don’t want it to become something dreaded and on days that are long or if they’re tired, there’s no need to force it.
Grocery shopping tends to be my alone time. I know, I know…living the vida loco over here. Don’t judge. I do bring the kids along sometimes and get them to pick out what THEY want for fruits and veggies. I encourage them to look for new stuff.
The other week, my daughter was with me and I ran into someone I knew and stopped to chat. I set her free in the produce section and told her to go pick what she wanted. It was interesting to see what she picked, the funniest being when she plopped a bag of green beans into the shopping cart. There were literally 14 beans…basically what she could fit in her little hand.
The great thing is that when she picks something, she wants to eat it. She’s asked about produce that she doesn’t know about and has been wanting to try cabbage. Who knows if she’ll like it but she’ll willing to try it and that’s all that counts.
On days when you have time, toss an little apron on your kid(s) and let them channel their inner junior chef. I have supplies for them (see above)–my daughter loves her measuring spoons and cups and the salad spinner is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Sometimes I put my daughter in charge of making a salad for the family or have her help her little brother stir something. Mix something, measure something, mash something, cut something…anything that’s age appropriate. She feels proud of herself and has a great time when she’s helped in some way to make a meal. Needless to say, I watch her carefully ’cause safety and all.
Little Herb Garden
When it’s finally warm enough, we go out and buy some starter herb plants. My daughter picks them and we talk about the smell of it and what it’s used for. City living doesn’t lend itself to gardening very well so, right now, we’re confined to a small little herb garden.
With the new herbs, we plant a bunch of them in containers and watch them grow. What kid doesn’t love getting their hands dirty? My daughter helps water them and when they’re big enough we go out on the deck to pick what we want to use for supper. It’s just another way to get her invested in eating well.
So, there you have it, this is what’s working for me and my family. I hide veggies in things and do all the other mom tricks to get them to eat healthy stuff. I want them to have a good and healthy relationship with food and am hoping that by giving them the tools and opportunity to make good choices that it’ll help.
Do you have any tips that you do to encourage your kids to eat healthy?