Recently I have seen a lot of questions on how to get our children to make better choices when it comes to food, eat a larger variety of foods, or even just to eat something… ANYTHING. Kids are generally picky eaters and as parents we do what we can to keep our kids happy and healthy, so if that means cooking separate dinners for them and ourselves then so be it, at least they are eating, RIGHT?? Not exactly. Catering to our children turns them into entitled teenagers that think the world owes them something and everything is unfair if it isn’t their way. It’s the foundations let we build now as they are young that we will grow upon as they grow up. Let’s make sure we have a strong one. I have put together a short list of tips and ideas that should help you to get your children to not only eat the meals that you are making them, but LOVE them.
MAKE A LIST OF FOODS THAT EACH PERSON LOVES/HATES
I have said this before, its important to know what your kids will and wont eat. Having a list will give a general idea of the types of foods that you will be buying and which recipes may work for your family. When I say make a list of foods though, I don’t mean cookies. I am talking about fruit, vegetables, meats, dairy, and grains. After, get them to tell you their favourite meals; not focusing on whether it is healthy. You can always take something unhealthy and find alternatives.
FIND A RECIPE THAT THE KIDS CAN HELP PREPARE
Even at one years old I let my son make a choice for what he wants for dinner. I just hold up 2 items and wait until he grabs one. I also, like my parents did, pull a chair up to the counter so that he can “help” (really, he only plays with the water in the sink). Generally, children love to help in the kitchen. It’s a great way to spend some quality time with them and they are more likely to eat the meal because they helped to prepare it. Also, if they are not feeling the idea of helping to prepare the meal have them help with something else, maybe set the table. Cooking should not be less of a chore and more of a way to spend time together
TRYING NEW FOODS; HELLO DISLIKE LIST
Remember the list of foods your kids made that they disliked?? Now is the perfect time to incorporate some of them into your meal plan. I HATE brussel sprouts, but I have seen a couple of recipes lately that are making me reconsider that choice. Trying something new certainly will not kill your child, in fact as your kid grows their taste buds change. Something that they may have hated can become something that they love in a couple of months. Just keep trying things that you are not fond of. As a `reward, let them pick something off your dislike list to watch you eat. Keep it fun.
All kids like food that they can put together themselves; think tacos, pizza, maybe even a salad if you are lucky. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a buffet type dinner where you put out a main idea ex: Taco Night, and then set out the fillings. If they are eating and enjoying their food you should have nothing to complain about. This is another opportunity to put out a couple toppings that might be on that dislike list.
SNEAK HEALTHY FOODS INTO FAVOURITES
Spinach in the spaghetti sauce?!? Cauliflower in the mac n’ cheese?!? They never would had guessed it and you never should tell them. What those kids don’t know, won’t hurt them. Just don’t go over board, a little bit goes a long way.
JUST DON’T BUY IT
Its hard to say no to a 3-year-old have a melt down in the grocery store because she wants Lucky Charms, but stay strong my friend. We DO NOT negotiate with terrorists, this is not a democratic event. Make a list of what you need to get at the grocery store and stick to it. I am not telling you to not buy anything that is fun and full of sugar, but limit yourselves. Lucky Charms is every kids favourite, and by all means buy them Lucky Charms, but make sure they are also eating whole foods. Sometimes its best not to bring your kids to the store with you (if that is an option). The old saying does go, “outta sight, outta mind” and this will ring true here. If they don’t see it then they wont need it. Keep in mind that whatever you bring home, whether it be Lucky Charms or a bag of apples there is always going to be “nothing to eat”.
EAT AS A FAMILY
First thing is first, turn off the television. I REPEAT, TURN OFF THE TELEVISION. Make dinner time a chance for each of you to reconnect with one another. Talk about your day, listen to your kid tell you about what they did in school or who beat up who in the park. You will learn so much about your kids this way. Families that eat together are more likely to make healthier choices and less likely to be over weight.
If all of this goes as planned your kids will be able to continue to make healthier choices as they grow up. Pass down your famous recipes, make cooking fun again, and remember, its okay to treat yourselves occasionally. Saving treats for special occasions like birthdays and Christmas will only make you love them even more.