Since having my first son 5 years ago I’ve paid more attention to kids food, specifically what’s marketed out there. At the grocery store I’ll often see things and think “oh Travis loves dinosaurs- I should get this ____ for him”. This is the trap marketing has pulled many parents into. Kids food is fun, easy, portable, convenient, quick, cute- you name it. This can be fine on occasion, trust me I’m all for convenience too. But we need to be more aware of what we’re feeding our kids. To help create healthy strategies for them now and in their future. Here are my top 5 tips for getting my kids to eat healthy. I clearly don’t have older kids so I can’t say my advice for that population (yet). You may not love them all but this is what’s worked for me since becoming a mom. 1. Involve them- If you’ve been following me for awhile you’ll see that my kids are involved with my cooking and see me in the kitchen a lot. Sometimes I have to take them to the grocery store (torturous) so I try to get them involved in what we’ll be buying. Talk to your kids about healthy food and what it does for our bodies. Let them know what has fat, protein and why we need veggies. Ask them if their meals have these components in them. Keep healthy food in the house for them to choose from.
2. Negotiate- C’mon- we’ve all been here! Kids do not like to be told what to do. It’s better to work out an agreement with them. My son will usually ask me how many more bites he needs to have until he’s done with dinner. Although it can be annoying to count 5 more bites with him, I know sometimes he needs that end in site. I try not to reward him with dessert every night, but when I have a special dessert planned anyway I will let them know about it. If they don’t finish what I expect, then no dessert. We want our kids to be healthy so sometimes it takes negotiation to get them eating these healthy foods- and that’s ok! This can be seen as confusing with my next tip but bear with me-
3. No clean plate club- I firmly believe we shouldn’t be telling kids they need to finish the dinner on their plates. Kids are very good at listening to their hunger cues. We shouldn’t be neglecting that built in awareness they have. Honoring their hunger is something that will serve them well into their adulthood. If our kids are eating a good portion of their dinner- we need to be satisfied with that. If however they are looking for food within 20-30 minutes post meal, then we know they’re either not eating enough or getting the nutrients they needs (protein, fats, carbs).
I don’t like to throw food away, so I will allow the food to stay on the plate for about 30 minutes after him eating it. If he’s still hungry or asks for something else- he has food there. Forcing our kids to eat is only going to end in a fight.
4. Give them what you eat- The funny thing is, most kids can’t buy or make their own food. I hate to be mean but if your kid “only eats mac and cheese” or “only likes chicken nuggets” it’s because that might be all you’re feeding them. I cringe at the idea of “kid” foods. There is nothing healthy about the fried, fatty, artificial, non-nutritious food that’s targeted towards our kids. They might not love what you make- but they kinda have no other choice. I learned this from Kate Gosselin on Jon & Kate Plus 8 (yes I used to watch her show- don’t judge me) but kids will eat what you feed them eventually- they won’t starve. Keep it simple at first. Plain, not many spices and separated.
5. No depriving- Having foods off limits can set your kids future up for turmoil. If they have certain foods that are “bad” for them then they might crave them or indulge when they have the chance. Reinforce why they need to eat healthy and what happens if they don’t. If they happen to indulge ask them how they feel- stuffed, belly ache, tired? Remind them of that feeling. Let them choose how much they will eat of the treat (within reason) and remind them to not eat until stuffed, but satisfied.