Do you ever worry that your kids are not getting the proper nutrition? In a perfect world kids would eat whatever we put in front of them right? It would be a dream if I could make a delicious, healthy meal, such as a quinoa salad with roast chicken and vegetables, and my kids would just gobble it up and ask for more. I love to cook healthy meals, but when they won’t eat it, I wonder why I even spent the time cooking?
Now I know there are the rare kids that eat EVERYTHING, and those parent are super lucky. There are also kids who live on nothing but junk, so I try to be grateful that mine will at least eat some fruits and veggies, but it’s a work in progress to make sure they get adequate nutrients they need.
Some parents believe that we should just let kids eat what they want, and if they don’t ever want to eat a fruit or veggie and just survive on sugar and processed foods that’s ok, but that is not what I want for my kids. Kids grow so rapidly and need those nutrients to grow strong and feed their brain so they can learn. I want to teach them what is good for their bodies and what is not. The childhood obesity rates are rising, and studies have found that a child’s eating habits carry over into adulthood, so if you teach them while they are young, they will eat better as an adult and hopefully avoid some health problems as they get older.
My kids love raw baby carrots, and they will usually eat cooked broccoli and corn. That’s it for veggies, however. Thankfully their appetite for fruits is wider. They love oranges, peaches, grapes, strawberries, green apples, blackberries, and sometimes banana. Some of these foods they loved the first time they tried them, but most of them, especially the veggies, have taken time for them to “learn” to like.
How do you get them to learn to like foods you may ask?
Well, some parents might not agree with the list I mention below, but doing these 5 things has worked very well for us.
The younger you start giving children fruits and veggies the better. Pediatricians usually recommend giving babies pureed veggies as their first food around 6 months (my favorites are here). Then after the child is doing well with veggies, introduce fruits. Notice how they don’t say “give them a cheeseburger and then if they like that introduce a chocolate shake”. If you continue giving them healthy foods from the time they start eating solids, they will most likely continue to enjoy them. If you don’t offer your child green beans until he’s 5, he’s going to resist them more than if you made him try them for the last 5 years. Also, limit processed foods and sweets while they are young, so they can learn to love healthy, homemade foods. I know this is hard for busy moms who just need something quick, and I’m not saying my kids never have chicken nuggets, but just don’t give it to them every night. If they never taste a cookie, they won’t know what they are missing. I never gave my oldest any sweets until he was two. After that, on the rare occasion that I did, he usually didn’t even want it. My in-laws would think it was so weird that my child would turn down a piece of cake, but I just told them he didn’t care much for sweets and preferred healthy foods.
This can be hard, but even if they don’t like something, keep offering it to them and make them try it. I have seen this approach work for my kids. My daughter used to hate broccoli, but I would make her try it each time I cooked it, and now she likes it. Repetition is hard, especially if they refuse, and it can take MANY attempts, but if you make them take a bite it will be beneficial in the long run. I don’t feel I’ve given my kids a complete meal if there isn’t a fruit or veggie to go with it. Every day I consciously think about what my kids have ate as the day goes on and that helps me determine what I make them at the next meal. If I gave them fruits for breakfast and lunch, I give them veggies for dinner. I also make sure they drink plenty of water throughout the day and try and limit their dairy intake because it is very constipating (especially for my kids). This repetitive exposure to new tastes, even if they don’t like it, has helped my kids learn to like many foods they otherwise wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of foods they still don’t like, but I feel the list of the ones they do like is much longer than it would have been if I hadn’t made them try it. Now how do you MAKE them try foods? See the next tip for my answer…
This for that
We have a “rule” in our house that we started with my oldest when he was young and have continued it with the twins. If they want more of something on their plate, like say more rice, but they haven’t ate any of their veggie or the item they don’t like, they have to take a bite of that food first, and then we will give them more rice. IT WORKS LIKE A CHARM. In the very beginning they didn’t always understand what we meant. We would have to put the food they didn’t like in their mouth (and sometimes they would protest), and then we would give them the food they wanted more of to show them what we meant. Now that they have learned this concept, they gladly take a bite of the ‘least favorite food’ to get what they want. We do the same thing with dessert too. If they want a cookie after dinner, but don’t want to eat the healthy choices on their plate, we tell them they have to eat at least half of the healthy choice first, and 9 times out of 10 they will because they really want that cookie!
Hide the good stuff
Make a smoothie! This is a great way to get them the fruits and veggies they need. My kids LOVE them! Some days my boy twin just won’t want to eat any fruits or veggies, but if I make him a fruit/veggie smoothie he will gobble it up! You can also hide stuff in other foods, but I find smoothies work best. We use the Magic Bullet Blender. It’s super easy and quick! You can throw in spinach, broccoli, or other things you think they normally won’t eat with things they do like, such as strawberries, etc. They won’t even know you put really healthy stuff in it!
Your kids won’t eat healthy if you don’t. I’m sure this won’t be a problem for most moms, but don’t make them eat broccoli if you aren’t going too. You should instead show them how yummy it is and that you love it.