As parents, when you think about ways you can improve your child’s overall health, consider some of their habits. What foods are they eating regularly? Do they seem to enjoy eating healthy foods or do they do so begrudgingly because they have to?
This article will look at ways you can encourage kids to eat healthy food by making these foods more appealing to them. They may start to enjoy eating healthier and eventually take those great habits on into adulthood and into their own families.
Help your child eat healthier by following some of these tips:
1. Set a Good Example. The first step to take before suggesting your kids start eating healthier is to take some small steps in this area yourself. When you have a hankering for some chips or cookies in the middle of the day, try to refrain from eating them and replace them with a healthier snack instead. You could grab some veggies and veggie dip as an alternative. Maybe some cheese and crackers could satiate your cravings? Your kids may see what you’re eating and want to mimic that.
2. Let Them Help You Cook a Meal. Kids are more likely to eat a healthy meal if they took part in preparing it. Let them help you prepare dinner. Take them to the grocery store and allow them pick out a vegetable for the meal. If they’re old enough, let them cut the vegetables or stir the salad. If they take part in the meal, they’ll be proud of their work and want to try the “fruits” of their labor.
3. Flavor it Up. Healthy food can sometimes be pretty bland, but it doesn’t have to be. Add some good spices to the meals or include some type of healthy dip to go with the vegetables and fruit. Make homemade ranch dressing for those carrots and cucumbers, or some peanut butter fruit dip for the apples and strawberries. Hummus and salsa are two other dips that can help you dress up those healthy meals.
4. Take it Slow. Kids can get overwhelmed pretty easily if you add too many new things into their diet at once. Introduce the new, healthy foods one at a time. Let them adjust to a new, healthy food before introducing them to another.
5. Make What They Like. As you let your kids try different vegetables and fruits, they’re bound to find some that they really enjoy. Make it for them. And when you introduce them to new healthy foods, include their favorite healthy food in the meal so if they refuse to eat one part of the dish, they’re still eating something healthy.
6. Schedule Their Meals. It’s best if kids eat every 3 to 4 hours. This includes: three meals for the day, two snacks and plenty of fluids. Planning mealtimes and snack times helps control what they’re eating. It can also help you plan ahead. If you’re going to be out during a time they usually eat lunch or have a snack, you can bring something with you that they can eat. This will reduce those trips to all of those fast food restaurants while you’re out.
7. Cook More at Home. Let’s be honest, even we have a hard time choosing healthy options when we go out to eat. Lessen that temptation for your kids by cooking more at home.
8. Breakfast Is Best. Your kids need energy for school and for their day. Prioritize breakfast so they’re fed and full when they go off to school.
9. Cleanse Your Pantry. Keep in mind, you and your kids are allowed guilty pleasures every once in a while, but if your pantry is full of junk food, that’s going to be the easiest thing your kids will grab to eat. Replace some of those bags of chips with some multi-grain crackers and cheese. Have more fruits and vegetables around the house for the kids to snack on. Keep the pantry stocked with lightly buttered popcorn. Replace those sugary cereals with some healthier ones.
10. For Your Little Ones, Create Pictures with Their Meals. If you’ve been on Pinterest at all, you’ve probably seen all of the different pictures you can make with healthy foods that will entice your kids to try their fruits and vegetables. Be creative! Surprise your kids with the fun shapes and food art. They’ll have more fun as they’re eating. For some ideas, check out our Healthy Food Made Fun board.
11. Don’t Overdo It. Chips and cookies every now and then isn’t a bad thing. If junk foods are completely forbidden, your kids will want them even more. Communicate to your kids that these types of foods are special treats, “every-now-and-then” types of foods, not items you eat every day.
Other Tips to Remember for Their Dental Health
Following the advice listed above will ultimately improve not only their overall health but their dental health, as well. However, there are a few more tips to remember when it comes to feeding your children healthy food for their dental health:
- Citrus fruits are great, but make sure your child rinses his/her mouth with water thoroughly after eating them. These acidic fruits are not good for tooth enamel.
- Cheese is not only good for your overall health, but your dental health as well. It helps trigger saliva flow, which helps wash away food particles from your kids’ teeth.
- Sugary treats are best served with meals, not as snacks. Saliva flow is increased during mealtime, so giving your child sugary treats at meals will reduce their risk for tooth decay.
- Foods that linger in the mouth and are full of sugar should be avoided, no matter how much your child might love them. Hard candies, lollipops and mints, to name a few, coat teeth with sugar.
- Kids need plenty of calcium for stronger teeth. Good sources of calcium can be found in broccoli, milk and yogurt.
- Teach your child to like water. It’s the best drink for them and should be chosen over juice and soda.
For more tips about how to shop for healthier foods for you and your kids, read about our Grocery Store Tour and print out our free, healthy grocery store list to take with you to the store.
How have you made eating healthier fun for your kids? Share your stories with us in the comment section below.