Do your kids eat healthy foods or do you wish they had more interest? My kids love food! I hear that a lot, “your kids eat so well.” They are not perfect by any means and we still struggle with some various foods but I owe a lot of their interest in food because it truly is something my husband and I like. I love to cook, we choose healthy options, we like to spend our money on food – whether it be stuff for home or eating out, food is pleasure and enjoyment for us.
With all that said, I want to teach my kids how to make good decisions but have a fine line of not wanting to give them a complex about food. I make sure we don’t completely restrict any type of food, and instead we just try to opt for better options and talk about the choices we are making when we are making them. I want them to learn balance and how to autocorrect if they start going down a path of eating too many foods that aren’t making them feel well.
I thought it might be helpful for me to share some of the strategies we use in our home to get our kids interested in eating and eating well, as I know a lot of families battle this.
Some practices we incorporate into our home:
- Our kids love to go to the grocery store. I think including them in this activity gives you a chance to talk about different foods.
- Get them involved in dinner making. My kids have a cooking set and love to help me. While it may take longer or be messier, I often find they are trying things as they prepare it.
- Provide independence and assign roles around mealtime. Some of their roles are getting placemats, napkins, silverware and my oldest now likes to bring everyone’s plate to the table. I also have started making them bring their plate back to the counter after the meal is done (and they even help with the dishwasher some).
- Serve meals at the table. I always use to keep everything on the stove or counter and dish up for them, but I have started trying to bring everything to the table and again let them be actively involved in dishing up. They also get to practice this at school.
- We play a game at dinner where they guess what is in the food. They think this is fun and gives me a chance to talk about ingredients we maybe haven’t used before.
- Three bite no thank you rule. At our house they must have at least three bites, even if it isn’t their favorite food or favorite way of a food being prepared. We do this for a few of reasons. First, respect for the person who prepared the food and secondly because they may think they don’t like the food but if it is prepared or seasoned a different way, may like it better. Finally, it can take many many times of trying a food before your taste buds adjust and agree.
- Positive reinforce. So simple but just telling them great job for trying a new food and making a big deal about it brings a smile to their face and they feel proud.
- Give them options. I am anxious for them to help with meal planning as they continue to get older, but also understand that we aren’t going to have pizza, pasta, or tacos everynight. For now, I give them options so they still feel they are involved. Do you want this or that? Would you prefer this vegetable or that vegetable?
- Have a garden if you can. I will never forget the time my little boys were in the backyard pulling arugula leaves off the plant and telling the middle school neighbor girls about it and trying to get them to try it. Or watching them pull cucumbers and peppers off the plant and run around eating them.
- Try a variety of foods and cooking techniques and don’t give up after one time!
- Most importantly have them eat what you eat and make your choices good. You must model the behavior! And as soon as you start cooking them a separate meal, they will realize they can get away with this. I promise your kids won’t starve!
A couple of benefits I have seen from including my children in the process is they learn about new foods. Having them at the grocery store or cooking with me allows me to show and tell and teach them about the foods. I love that my kids know what arugula, pomegranate, kimchi, kefir, artichokes, etc. are. How many adults don’t even know?!
Playing the game at dinner not only makes it fun to eat, but also encourages them to use their senses.
The ultimate goal is they learn to be open minded to trying new foods, knowing no one person likes everything!
These are some things that have worked for us, but I also have 25 tips for getting healthy eaters included in my FREE eBook, I you are looking for more ideas!.
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