Healthy food and kids. They’re not exactly BFFs.
Most children have about three food groups: chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and fruit snacks.
So how do we as parents get cooperation when we’re trying to get some good nutrition in them??
Here are seven tips that can help:
1. Offer a healthy food at every meal
Yes, it might just sit there more often than not, but put in on the plate anyway (or in a bowl to the side if having it on the plate will freak them out). I have done this religiously with every one of my children, and there have always been times when they would shock me and eat a big pile of veggies first! They can’t make a healthy choice if there isn’t one to be made. So put the veggies on the plate, mama. <3
2. Choose healthier packaged foods
Food companies are starting to get pretty good about offering some healthier options that are still attractive to kids. Try choices such as Annie’s Organics crackers/cookies, Chobani yogurt tubes, or Go Go Squeez fruit pouches, These packaged foods are still fun, but they have a lot less sugar, artificial colors, etc that aren’t good for little bodies.
3. Make it fun
Meal time can be less of a battle when it’s a fun experience. Try some plates, cups, placemats etc with your kids favorite characters on them. One of my daughters used to eat all of the food in one of the sections of her plate just so she could see her favorite character underneath. We turned it into a ‘hide and seek’ type game. She loved it, and we always got her to eat whatever was in that section.
We also play a game called ‘Best Part, Worst Part’ at the end of every meal. We go around the table and everyone shares what they liked the most, and the least, about their day. The kids love it and it makes dinner time fun.
4. Sneak the good stuff in
There are lots of ways to get nutrients in your kids without them knowing it. Smoothies are a fantastic way to do this! Just mix up some frozen fruit, milk, nut butter (or protein powder), a handful of baby spinach, and some ice and you have a super nutritious ‘shake’ that they are sure to love.
My little guy also loves ‘mashers’. His two faves are cauliflower mashers (cauliflower steamed til very soft, then pureed with butter, salt, pepper, and garlic powder), and sweet potato mashers (mashed cooked sweet potatoes mixed with some real maple syrup, butter, and pecans). There are a lot of ways to get good foods in them disguised as a treat. Get creative! There are also some great ideas here if you need some inspiration.
5. Reduce temptation
It stands to reason that if you don’t buy it, they can’t eat it. Having a few less healthy snacks around is okay, so long as they are also eating nutritious foods. Just try to refrain from filling the pantry and fridge with lots of unhealthy options so they don’t automatically default to making that choice.
Aside from the packaged options mentioned above, other great kid-friendly alternatives to unhealthy snacks are cheese sticks, hummus with pretzels, apple with peanut butter, boiled or deviled eggs, homemade trail mix with nuts and raisins (no candy), air-popped popcorn (not the microwave kind), cheese and whole wheat crackers, baby oranges/grapes/bananas, etc, applesauce (no sugar added), and baby carrots with ranch dressing.
6. Use a reward chart
Sometimes a little extra motivation can go a long way. Having a reward to work towards can be very encouraging for kids. You can agree to buy them a small toy, let them have a friend spend the night, or have a little extra screen time. Whatever will motivate them to try new things without a battle. You can get my free Healthy Foods Reward Chart for kids right here.
7. Be a good example
One of the most important things you can do to encourage healthy eating habits in your child is to practice them yourself. Children learn what they live, so if mama is frequently found turning to healthy foods, then her children will be more inclined to also. Not to mention it’s important for YOU to make good food choices as well! <3
If you need some help in this department, and are interested in a structured program that was created specifically for mamas, I would love to invite you to mine. It is a six week, one-of-a-kind healthy eating/self-care program that will totally change the way you ‘diet’. And what a beautiful change it is! You can find it right here: ‘Cleaneo for Fat Loss’ program. I would LOVE to have you.
About the Author
Julie is the mother of three, ages 28, 21, and 6, and Gima (grandmom) to a five-year-old grandson.
Over her 28 years of child-rearing she has been ALL the moms (single, married, stay-at-home, working, young, ‘mature’, struggling, stable, etc) and has faced every healthy eating challenge there is.
Now the founder of Well Fed Families, and author of the ‘Easy, Healthy Meals for the Tired-Ass Mom’ cookbook, Julie uses her real-life, family-raising experience to help other overwhelmed mamas get on a healthier track.