It is hard when you as a parent become a firm believer in eating healthy but your kids aren’t on board. Forcing them is futile. The fight will wear you down and unless you are a die-hard purist in your beliefs you will give up the first month. Here are ten tips to help get kids to eat healthy foods.
1. Don’t tell them what you’re doing!
I know this sounds dishonest, but if you start lecturing the benefits of healthy food at them they are going to turn their noses up at it. Kids catch on quick. How often have you heard: Mom’s on another of her health food kicks. To get kids to eat healthy foods, don’t tell them and just do it for yourself and then for them without them catching on.
2. Replace Snacks with Fruit Slowly
Don’t run out and stock your fridge and cabinets with just fruits and veggies. Children and adults will fight this. Instead cut back on the foods you want to eliminate from their diet and add more of the foods you want them to eat.
For example, do your kids come home and have snacks after school? Are they mostly unhealthy snacks? Don’t take them all away at first, instead buy less so they run out before your next scheduled grocery trip and have fresh whole fruits waiting. When they complain just say, all we have left is fruit.
Kids want snacks. If all that’s left is fruit, they will eat it. Just make sure it’s fresh and fruit they like.
3. Cut Back On Meats Without Them Noticing
If your family are big meat eaters and you want them to cut back, again do this slowly if you think they’ll rebel. Cut back on how much you buy, make serving sizes smaller and offer more healthy choices at the table so when they want to eat more they don’t feel deprived.
Buy healthier choices of meat. Add more fish if you can and work on cutting out the red meats. In the end, remember, they are going to eat what you make them.
4. Forget to Buy the Cheese
This is a tough one, kids love cheese, but if your family is like most they eat what’s there. When they yell, “mom where’s the cheese,” yell back. “Are we out? I didn’t realize. Try that avocado spread I made or go without.”
5. Eat Fresh Cut Up Fruit In Front of Them
This trick really does work to help get kids to eat healthy foods. While your kids are doing homework and you’re hovering around them, pull out that bowl of fresh berries or cut up melons and a handful of toothpicks. Eat your fruit one toothpick spear at a time. Kids can’t resist.
Your family might not run to the fridge and grab whole fruit, but few will pass up on a platter of beautiful cut up fruit.
Next time you go to a potluck bring a platter of cut up fruit and toothpicks. Trust me, your dish will be the first to go.
6. Use the Grocery Store for Fast Food
Next time you’re coming home from the game and the kids are screaming they are starving and want you to stop for fast food. Go to the grocery store instead.
Keep forks and spoons in your glove compartment and bring them to the fresh fruit section or even a whole foods deli.
Better yet, anticipate their desire for fast food and have a cooler in the car so they can satisfy their hunger until they get home.
7. Start a Family Garden – a small one
Make it a fun project. The best kind to keep the kids interested is a container or boxed garden. One where they can work in it without it being work or losing everything to the ground squirrels.
Make it pretty. Put fairy houses around and light it with small white lights. LED in the summer and the old incandescent kind in the winter (adds warmth).
To get kids to eat healthy foods, harvest with kids. They are more apt to eat the lettuce and cauliflower from your garden than the ones from the market.
8. Take Your Kids to Farmer Markets and Pick Your Own Orchards
To get kids to eat healthy foods, get your kids involved in their food. A bowl of blueberries you picked yourself tastes better than any fatty, salty, snack from the store. Give your kids this experience. Maybe you will overbuy, maybe you will end up throwing some out, but the act of picking food, seeing where it comes from and what fresh really tastes like can turn many children into fresh food advocates.
You could make your own jams with a lot less sugar and give them as gifts from the kids. They would love that too.
9. Subtly Expose Your Children to Truth About Healthy Food
Yes, this could be considered manipulation, but it can help let your kids make up their own minds. Time it, plan it, and when they aren’t noticing, but nearby doing something else, watch shows like Forks Over Knives and the new Netflix series Rotten. Let them hear it in the background. Maybe they will join you on the coach. Make sure to have a box of tissue nearby.
Shows like this can open your children’s minds so they start making their own choices. Just watch the shows yourself first and make sure your child can handle them.
10. Never Preach or Force Only Healthy Food to Your Children
Many of the obese women who come to work with me have stories of their moms being food nazis. Children always rebel. Maybe you can force them to eat only vegan, but if they resent it, the minute they are out of your site they will do whatever they can to eat anything to defy your strict ways.
If a child makes up her own mind to start eating healthier, then that is her choice, not something she will rebel against. Guide your children, expose them to the value of a healthy lifestyle. Get them thinking. Kids tend to contemplate things more than adults, especially if it’s something about animals. If they start to feel eating healthier is right for everyone, watch out because they will start preaching to you!