I believe that most parents, at some point, have struggled with their child’s diet. Whether facing a picky eater, allergies, or a child just digging in their heels, everyone has been there. Often times parents are afraid that their child will not eat. As a result, they give in and provide whatever the child wants at the moment.
I know that kids need to slowly ease into eating adult foods and that naturally they will have preferences and tastes. I also know that it is your job as a parent to offer the most nutritious foods to your child as possible. You are paving the way for their eating habits for the rest of their life. It sounds like a big job, and it is. Eating habits are nothing to take lightly or overlook in the bustle of being a busy parent.
Trying to make the most out of meal time with your family? Desperate to add veggies to the mix on their plates? Here are some straightforward, easy ideas to put into practice early and often.
- Offer your child the family dinner. This is the best possible scenario, so why not start here? You may not have to go any farther.
- Some kids like choices. Give them 2. Both of these choices should be well-rounded and nutritious. They can also offer a suggestion, but if their suggestion does not meet your standard then it should not be considered. If none of the choices are picked, wait and try again in a few minutes. If a child knows they cannot win the battle they will give up the fight.
- Set some boundaries around meal time. Use a timer for a slow or non-eater. Limit quantities of bread, fruit and drink. Make sure that eating food is the main goal of meal time, and that expectations can be accomplished within the boundaries. Set meal times and stick to them. Cut down on snacking between meals. If they do not choose to eat at meal time, let them know when the next meal will be offered.
- Be realistic with yourself. If they do not choose to eat a meal or stop before they are full, allow them to feel the natural consequences of that decision. Lots of parents are nervous that their child will wilt away in the middle of the night. Be honest with yourself. You know this will not happen and that the lesson learned is worth a little pain and suffering.
- Introduce healthy fruits, vegetables and meats early. More exposure at a younger age will increase the chance your child will enjoy them.
- Model good eating habits. Practicing a healthy lifestyle and getting your child involved is a fun way to spend some time together cooking and trying new recipes. Kids are much more likely to try new things that they have helped cook.
- Do not engage in fighting or negotiations. If your child does not choose to accept what is offered, they should quietly sit with the family or be excused.
- Everyone likes a burger with fries now and then, but save it for a special occasion or as a reward for good behavior in a restaurant.
If you are already struggling to introduce healthy foods, here are a few ideas:
- Popsicles – add things like fresh fruit, greens, flax seeds, yogurt, and vitamins, blend and freeze. No need to add sugar.
- Homemade Sauces – create sugar-free tomato based sauces like ketchup, or fresh pesto, or cheese sauces. These are easy and can go on almost everything
- Filled Pastas – wheat pastas that are filled with meat and veggies, covered in sauce, are delicious.
- Smoothies – similar to popsicles, you can add just about anything and blend it up. I like to add bananas or peanut butter if I need to mask another flavor.
- Homemade Breads – grains and seeds are easily added to breads, plus you can use whole wheat and other top ingredients.
- Spaghetti Squash – easy to make and very fresh, a perfect replacement for pasta in any recipe.
- Mashed Potato Substitutes – there are several replacements for potatoes like cauliflower, turnips, beets, and carrots. Just steam or roast, mash and serve.
Setting the stage early helps your child make good decisions about diet later in life. Explain to your kids why they need to eat healthy and how they can help keep the family on track. Making food at home is always a great way to watch what goes inside your child’s body.
More great information found on these blogs:
Just one great page of many at Eating Healthy for Kids
Useful ways to develop good eating habits at Healthy Eating
The Homestead Company has some honest answers about kid’s diets
Healthy Lifestyle examines The Clean Diet