How to Help Kids Develop a Healthy Food-itude
By Sara Butler
If you have children, you know that they turn their nose up at a lot of things -- most of it centered around food. If it’s not processed chicken shaped into a nugget or some form of potato, chances are you’ve struck out quite a few times at introducing new, healthy foods.
It’s hard to blame kids for this since our culture sends so many mixed messages about food and they’re constantly bombarded with ads for junk food. The good news is that it’s never too late to help adjust your kid’s attitude toward food -- their food-itude.
Here are some tips to help your kids eat new foods and make their diet more diverse.
Encourage a Healthy Attitude
Food is joyful and it should be approached that way. Try not to emphasize certain foods as healthy while others are unhealthy. Instead, present a variety of healthy food options to your child and include occasional treats in there, too. Food shouldn’t be used as a punishment or a bribe, either.
Make Food Fun
You’ve likely heard the term “eat the rainbow,” and though it’s a fun visual for kids to connect with food, it doesn’t have to end there.
There are all kinds of ways to make food fun. You can always present broccoli beards or asparagus spikes, but aside from making food into fun characters, you can also create food that is fun to eat. A few ideas to get you started include:
- Roll it up - I don’t know what it is about rolled-up food and kids, but they go crazy for it. There are so many combinations you can use, too. All you need are some tortillas, healthy ingredients for the inside, and your imagination!
- Create a story - Get some pizza crust and veggies, roll the pizza crust out and create a scene. You can use broccoli for bushes or trees and slices of tomato for puddles. You could even use sliced carrots or olives to create a winding path through the forest pizza. In this respect, it’s good to encourage kids to play with their food and channel their inner artist. Roasted veggies, anyone?
- Discover shapes - Along the same lines as the roll, shaped food is something that interests kids. Even some older kids love it, though they’d never admit it to you. If you have cookie cutters laying around, break them out to create some shapes out of sandwiches and slices of fruits or vegetables. You can even get the kids involved to cut them out.
- Just dip it - If there was a kid Bill of Rights, then it would likely include dip as a cornerstone of their liberty. Kids go crazy over dip and all things you can dip in dip. There are a lot of healthy dip options out there, too. You can use pureed fruit, yogurt, hummus, guacamole, salsa, and nut butter to dip fruits, vegetables, pita, and crackers. You may be surprised at the new foods you can get kids to try if a dip is involved.
Eat as a Family
If you’re not having dinner together as a family, then you’re really missing out. Sure, schedules can be busy and tweens may want to spend 99 percent of their time alone in their room, but if you can come together for dinner at least a few times per week, then you can have some great conversations with healthy meals as the centerpiece.
Be a Good Example
You’re an adult, so you’ve had years of experience trying new foods. While you may not be crazy for cauliflower or have any zeal for zucchini, you are a role model to your children, so you have to practice what you’re trying to preach. If you can model trying new things and eating healthier, then your child will follow in your footsteps. Plus, you never know -- you may have thought you had no enthusiasm for eggplant when, in reality, you love it!
Whatever strategy you use to help instill a healthy food-itude in your kids, remember that what you’re doing now can set them up with healthy habits they’ll take with them throughout their lives. While you may not be able to change their attitude as they grow into tweens and teens, you do have an influence when it comes to their attitude toward food, so use it for good!
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