How to get your family to eat healthy

Raising a family can be particularly trying when it comes to meals. From early on children start to exert their independence and it often start with food. The “NO” when it comes to getting them to eat something. I know of many parents who simply gave up and fed their children nothing but chicken nuggets and hot dogs because “that is all they will eat”. As parents we must role model healthy eating, make it fun and Be a parent!!!

 Young children should be started early with healthy eating, choose fruits instead of ice cream. If highly refined sugary foods are introduced early of course your child will choose the sweets over the healthy fruit choices. Hold off as long as possible with sweets.

Make eating fun

A favorite story of mine is when my son was about three I would read to him every night and a favorite story was about the Incredible Hulk. So when I introduced split pea soup I told him it was Hulk soup and if he ate it he would be as big and strong as Hulk. He promptly wolfed down the soup and expected to see changes immediately. I told him it would take several days for it to work and the more he ate the better the effects. He bought it! It took over a year before he caught on, but to this day loves Hulk soup.

Veggies – make them fun! 

Allow them to be finger foods, build towers with carrot sticks, be ravenous dinosaurs eating the tops off all the trees (broccoli), count how many leaves to get to the middle of a brussel sprout, see who can pull the longest string out of celery.

Expect to hear “No thanks, they aren’t my favorite.” Be ready to reply “Of course they aren’t your favorite, we don’t all get to eat our favorite foods every day.” Just because they reject it one day keep offering it, insist on at least one bite to see if you still don’t like it. Yes mine still don’t like summer squash or cooked sweet potatoes – I think they ate these all their early formative years. Role model eating these foods anyway, don’t eliminate them from your diet.

Soda is the exception

Too many kids go straight to the fridge and look for soda or juice. Encourage water! Water with every meal, water when thirsty, water with snacks. Get them used to drinking water. Keep a pitcher in the fridge, use ice cubes, have water bottles ready to just pull from the fridge and go. Stock up on your favorite ones so we can reduce the plastics from store bought water. Add a twist of lemon or a small amount of juice for the treat. If you already have a soda addict. Have them measure out the amount of sugar that is in the drink, it is a good visual experiment, then continue to measure out the most they have had in one day, then add it in the approximate sugar from the rest of their daily intake – ice cream, cookies etc.  Let them decide if it is healthy or not.

Don’t be a short order cook.

Cook a healthy meal for everyone, have healthy snacks out instead of letting the children rummage through the refrigerator or kitchen. My children always come home to a bowl of fruit on the table, and maybe some whole grain cracker or hummus and vegetables. If the kids are demanding and complaining about the food choices have them help plan and prepare. Nothing better than getting them to cook as prepares them for the future, teaches how food is produced, like how much butter really goes into cookies. What fruit combinations work in smoothies, how to hide kale in a recipe, these are good challenges for teens.