Being a parent means that your children’s safety and wellbeing come first, always and forever. That being said, your concern isn’t just their safety, but their happiness and health as well. Children are notoriously picky eaters and getting them to try something new for dinner is almost impossible. Still, there are easy ways to make your picky children and teens eat their vegetables, fruit, milk, and other things they’ve been frowning upon.
1. Set a good example
The idea that children should do what you say and what you do is obsolete (not to mention impossible to put into action). You are setting an example for your children, whether they are pre-schoolers or teens, and if you forbid them from eating too many sweets while eating a chocolate cake, it’s going to backfire. Instead, you can try showing them that healthy foods are delicious by eating them often: fruit for dessert, nutritious meal in the morning, salad and fish for lunch… By doing this, you will set a good example and be true to your words and the children will take you more seriously if you practice what you preach.
2. Look for quality ingredients
There is a big difference between organic and non-organic products, and if you can find free-range chicken, grass-fed beef, wild caught fish, and free-range eggs, you’ll be in for a treat. Make the freshness of your ingredients a priority, because it’s no use buying expensive organic foods if you don’t have a place to keep them until you prepare them. Your pantry should be dark and dry, but not stuffy so all the jars can stay there for a long time without going bad. Quality appliances are also important, so choose the ones that will not only help you keep your food fresh, but will lower your energy bills too.
3. Offer healthy choices
It’s no use talking about eating healthy if there’s nothing healthy to eat in the fridge. You can start by stacking your pantry with healthy snacks such as hazelnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, and stacking your fridge with fresh fruit and veggies. Show them that strawberries dipped in raw honey taste wonderful and make your own homemade chips in the oven. Offer them something healthy to eat for every meal: whole grain bread and pasta, butter instead of margarine, honey instead of sugar, bitter dark chocolate instead of white and milk chocolate… This doesn’t seem like much, but once they get used to eating such things, they will start asking for them later on.
4. Include them in meal preparations
One of the ways to spark your children’s interest in food is to have them help you prepare it. This way, they will get to see what it looks like to cut ingredients, season them, and boil, fry, or bake them. If they get to help you out, they will look forward to being able to try something they prepared and they will likely enjoy the dish. When it comes to teens, you can encourage them to prepare meals on their own (with your help, if needed) and they will be more likely to experiment and try out different things. When you cook together with your kids, you are spending quality time together but you are doing something else in the process: teaching them an important life skill – how to feed themselves.
5. Forget about labels and restrictions
Labelling certain foods as “good” and “bad“ will do you no good. Instead, you can try explaining to them what certain foods do for their bodies. Let them know that protein from meat and calcium from milk and cheese give them strength to play with their friends, run, and play sports. Explain that fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants that help remove toxins from their bodies and keep their skin and hair healthy, that when they eat a healthy breakfast, they will be better focused in school. Don’t forbid them to eat any foods unless they’re allergic, and praise them when they make healthy food choices on their own.
You might think that a positive relationship with healthy food is difficult to build, but it doesn’t have to be so. If you and your family want to eat healthy and to have your fridge and pantry full of fruit and vegetables instead of junk food and sweets, it’s going to take some work, but in the end, you’ll be happier (and healthier).