Getting kids to eat all their vegetables and be excited about it can be a pretty elusive concept. I’m happy to tell you that it IS possible. Here’s how to get kids to eat healthy food, and be happy about it!
I know some parents have tried every trick in the book including being sneaky and hiding the vegetables. But, wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to hide them under the pretense of “kid food”? Or smother every vegetable with cheese?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of hidden veggie recipes. Sometimes adults need that little push too. But that shouldn’t have to be every meal, right?
9 Ways To Get Kids To Eat Healthy Food
Lead By Example
Anyone who lives with tiny humans knows that they love to mimic and copy the people they live with. It’s how they learn the best!
One day you see them trying on your shoes, or sitting the same way you do. Maybe they’ve picked up your facial expressions and hand gestures. Why not let them mimic your food habits too.
Don’t Ban Junk Food Completely
What happens when people go on diets? You cut out a food group, tell yourself you can’t have it, and then all you can think about is that one food. Right?
Kids are the same. Kids need cheat days too. It’s good for the soul. You’ll go crazy trying to be 100% healthy ALL the time. Teach them that ice cream, cookies, fast food, eating out, and so on, is a special treat and let them have it at whatever interval you deem appropriate. Do your best to fill in the between times with good nutritious food.
Let Them Play In The Kitchen
Following on the heels of mimicking, kid’s also want to spend time with you. Playing in the kitchen can be a fabulous way to bond and create amazing memories with your kids as well as teach them healthy habits and life skills.
You don’t have to wait until they are older for this either. If you’re reading this thinking your toddler needs to eat healthier but isn’t able to climb a step stool yet, fear not! They can still “help”.
Just yesterday, I was baking cookies and my 18 month old was having a snack of crackers and banana. I gave her a plastic bowl and a small whisk. 2 minutes later, she was mashing her banana and crackers together in the bowl. She wanted to play too.
Teach Them To Grow Their Own Food
This is something you can do even if all you have is a kitchen window for growing space. Is there an herb you use a lot in your cooking. Grow it and let them pick it.
Do they have a favorite vegetable? You can buy seeds, a small plant, or even grow from scraps. Show them how to do it and they’ll have fun watching it grow, taking care of it, and eating it!
Take Them To Farmer’s Markets Or Local Farms
When I was a kid, this was one of my favorite traditions. There is a huge farmers market near where I grew up and a few times every summer we’d drive and stock up on fresh produce. A lot of the vendors would have samples out and we’d joke that we were going to “have lunch” at the farmers market. We’d spend a couple hours out there (I did say it was huge) and I’d get to pick my favorites of the different tomatoes and cucumbers, etc. It’s a memory that has inspired me my whole life and is something I can’t wait to do with my kids.
There are lots of farms that will let you pick your own vegetables and fruits too! Also, little budget tip…Going to pick your own is also, often, much less expensive than buying it through your grocery store, not to mention much more fresh as well.
Let Them Help With Meal Planning
Piggy backing on the farmer’s market memory, after we’d come home from the farmer’s market or the store, my mom and I would meal plan what we would make with all our veggies (strangely, more often than not we’d do it backwards). Even in my teenage years when schedules got crazy and we didn’t have time to hang out together so often, we’d always meal plan together, watch cooking shows and get excited about food.
Give Them Lots Of Options
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve also read from various parenting sources that kids are a lot more cooperative if you let them make their own choices. And let’s face it, no one likes to be told what they’re going to do or eat and they have no choice in the matter.
Try serving a variety of veggies family style. Or when you’re meal planning, be flexible in your side dishes and let them pick which one they want for dinner that night (or what veggies go into the stir fry…things like that)
Teach Them To Read Labels
This is a life skill right here! You might be surprised how many adults don’t know how to read labels. It’s important for your health. Like with anything, just start with a couple of the basics. Kids are sponges, they will pick it up in no time.
Let them look for the numbers on sugar or fat (and if it has more than “x” grams then they can’t have it….good way to stop the “gimmes”). Or, teach them that if the ingredients have more that 15 letters then they shouldn’t eat it. You can also show them that section that has all the nutrients listed and that the more stuff listed there, the healthier it is. Of course label reading is more complicated and comprehensive than that, but they have to start somewhere.
Talk To Them About Their Food
Take advantage of the “why?” phase! As I mentioned before, kids are sponges. They absorb more information than we might think. Their curious nature will help them understand, even if full comprehension doesn’t click until later.
You can make it a game for them, like eating the rainbow, and they can check off the colors. Things like that.
Talk to them about why fruits and veggies are good for them. Educate them on the dangers of too much fat, sugar, and food additives. If you need a brush up on this information, read one of my favorites – Poison in the Pantry: The Truth Behind the Label
I know all that is a lot of information to take in. But, it’s all in hopes to help your kids (and you!) find inspiration. You don’t have to do every option to get them there. Any combination of your favorite few can be enough to get kids to eat healthy food and love it.