They’d rather eat cookies than cauliflower. Learn how to have your kids pleading for more peas.
At some point, most parents must deal with the challenge of wrestling good food into—and junk food out of—the hands of their children. We’ve got some easy strategies to get your child eating better.
Just the Facts
- It’s a parent’s job to buy, offer, and encourage nutritious foods.
- The child’s job is to choose from the nutritious foods offered.
- You don’t like all foods; neither will your children.
- On the other hand, tastes change, so don’t give up.
- Older kids don’t grow as quickly as infants; therefore, they don’t eat as much per body weight.
- Children have more sensitive taste buds than adults.
- Make sure you eat well. Your children are watching.
- Keep good snacks at children’s eye level. Make them the first thing your youngsters see when they open the fridge and cupboards. Store snacks on counter tops in bowls or clear glass jars.
- If a food is rejected, offer one alternative. If that is rejected, too, tell your child she has two good choices. Even a stubborn child won’t starve herself.
- Try not to win all the time; let your picky eater get away with saying no occasionally.
- Make sure your children have enough time to eat, but also don’t turn mealtime into an exercise in endurance. If they dawdle too long, excuse them from the table.
- Never beg your child to take “just one more bite.” This can result in overeating in later years.
At the Grocery Store
- Explain to your kids why you buy, or won’t buy, specific foods. For example, “We don’t buy those cookies because they have too much sugar in them.”
- If you plan to buy a special treat, decide with your kids (if they are old enough to make such decisions) what it will be before you enter the store and stick with your plan.
- Let little ones smell, hold, and pick out fresh produce. The fruit and vegetable aisles are rich in colors and textures, and offer a wealth of learning opportunities and fun for toddlers and babies. Getting your child excited about eating healthy can start with enjoying the sights and smells found at the market.
- Steer clear of the inner aisles. Most grocery stores put dairy, meats, and fresh produce along the store’s perimeter, saving the center for sodas, chips, and sugary treats.
- Seek out the candy-free, checkout aisles when it comes time to pay for your groceries.
Life on the Go
- When you leave home, take appealing and nutritious snacks along for your baby or toddler.
- Be prepared. Keep plastic forks, knives, and spoons, stored in plastic sandwich bags, in your glove compartment, backpack, or purse. Or pack baggies of nonperishable finger foods in your glove compartment for the littlest snackers in your family.
- Pack frozen fruits and vegetables in small containers to take along in lunches. They will defrost in time to eat and keep the rest of the lunch fridge-fresh.
- The words healthy and fast can be synonymous. When eating on the quick, choose restaurants where you can get foods such as a bean burrito, an Asian rice bowl, salads, or pasta.
Quick, Easy, and Healthy Food Tips
- Press frozen bananas through a juicer—they taste just like banana ice cream.
- Cut up leftover veggies; puree, spread on wide lasagna-style noodles; roll, bake, and slice.
- Spread low-fat cream cheese on whole-wheat tortillas, thinly slice fruit (pear is a favorite) and place on top, roll, and slice for a delicious, nutritious snack.
- Dilute fruit juices with water.
- Keep washed and cut vegetables and fruit ready in your refrigerator for fast and nutritious snacks.