If you struggle making greens appetizing or you often wonder what you could be doing to get your child to eat healthier, our Registered Dietitians offer some helpful tips for healthier eating kids will want to do, even on their own.
Kristin Knuf-Clements isn’t ashamed to say it: Her daughter eats more healthy food than she does.
“She’s been doing it since she was born,” the Renown Registered Dietitian says. “She just gravitates toward that stuff.”
Kristin admits her occupation has something to do with her daughter’s eating habits. But, she says it’s also about being consistent and encouraging your child to try new things.
If you struggle to get veggies into your picky eater or you’re looking for fun ideas to enrich your children’s diet, we compiled three easy ways you can get your kids, and your family, to eat healthier.
Get the kids involved
Every week, Kristin’s family members are assigned a day where they choose what the family eats. It starts at the grocery store when they get to pick out the ingredients offering them the chance to touch and smell a variety of produce items, and moves in the kitchen when it’s time to start cooking.
“My daughters love it when they get to cook,” says Kristin.
She says the process should start off slow and increase throughout time. For example, when they’re young, get them involved in the decision making process. And when they’re older, let them prepare the food and cook the meal.
She says it also helps to create rules, such as there must be a lean protein and a vegetable, and then go from there.
This is one sure fire way to get your kids involved that will lead to better eating habits as adults, Kristin says.
Just because it’s not your favorite doesn’t mean your kids feel the same
Kids model after their parents, especially in food choices. For example, if a parent actively refuses vegetables, the child could act the same way.
Studies show that a lack of vegetables can lead to scurvy and anemia.
Don’t be afraid to let your child experiment with food, especially foods you don’t like.
When we met with several of our Registered Dietitians, they shared stories of patients who discovered they liked food they previously thought they detested.
If there’s a case where you like healthy foods and your child doesn’t, remember that repeated exposure increases the chances a child will like it.
Fun Fact: You can train your taste buds to love foods you may have previously thought were bland or flavorless by cutting back on sugary, salty, fatty, processed or artificially-flavored foods.
For children, who naturally gravitate toward sweeter foods, offering them fresh and dried fruits or sweet tasting veggies when they ask for cookies, juice or granola bars consecutively for a few weeks can actually have them craving the natural sweetness of those fruits and veggies.
You can also try making up names for fruits and veggies that correspond to your children’s favorite super heroes or imagination, such as Captain America’s shields made from apples or magic green beans.
Grow a Garden
You don’t need much space to start a garden. You and your children can start an herb garden on your window sill – watching it grow will be half the fun for them!
If you have more space outdoors or in planter boxes, you can grow a variety of different fruits and vegetables.
The goal here is to get your child to invest in the growing process and, eventually, they can pick something from the garden and take it straight to their plate.
It’s a fun way to spend time together, too.
You can start with seeds and watch the results. Or, in the interest of time, buy herbs and vegetables that are already developed so that the start-to-finish time is less than a month.
Some favorites to start with include cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, sweet peas, carrots, potatoes, strawberries, and lettuces.
Sunflowers are also an easy and pretty garden item to grow and come harvest time, your kids will have fun collecting and roasting their first batch of sunflower seeds.
Tip for growing with young children: Toddlers can be very enthusiastic about spending time in the garden – spraying down the veggies, adding dirt, and digging with a trowel.
Make sure you teach them the fine art of gentle garden care or your homegrown produce could end up uprooted earlier than anticipated!