Kids… Nutrition…. Is this an Oxymoron?
Ewe. No way. I don’t like it. This is gross. Sound familiar?
If you are a parent, you have probably heard these comments more than once. Kids can be picky. Kids can be fickle! One day they love something, the next day they say, “Yuck! I don’t want that!”. What can you do as a parent who wants to give their kids the best food?
Here are 8 tips for getting kids to eat more nutritiously:
Involve them in the selection process. At the store give them healthy, nutritious choices. You can pick apples or pears, you can pick carrots or celery. They will feel in control.
Teach kids how to cook. Most kids can start cooking with you as young as 3-4. Ask them to mix, shape dough, stir, etc. (with adult supervision and assistance of course). Enlist help with each dish and progress to more difficult tasks and they grow. Make it fun and enjoyable. Added bonus – if you are baking you can throw in some math at the same time!
Prepare a salad bar for dinner. Everyone gets to pick and choose what they want to put on their plate. Use interesting shapes and sizes. Fork tines can make interesting texture on cucumbers, small cookie cutters can be used on carrots or jicama. Get creative!
Create fun names for food – think ants on a log (raisins on top of peanut butter and celery). Tie the names into favourite books or characters.
Remember we start to eat with our eyes. Make food look interesting and appetizing. Creatively plate food. Something as simple as fresh, chopped herbs on top of a dish creates a special feel.
Try dishes from different cultures. Talk about food from different countries. Explore culture, language and lifestyle through food. For example introduce Japanese food and learn how to fold origami. Eat with chopsticks while exploring Chinese food. Learn some easy Spanish words while eating enchiladas.
Start an herb garden with your kids. Make the connection from farm to table in a simple way. Have kids think of creative ways to use herbs. Put them in charge of tending for the herbs.
Create fun experiments with food in your kitchen. Make a battery from a lemon (of course don’t eat the lemon afterwards!). Make play dough. Make a volcano with the chemical reactions of vinegar and baking soda. Go outside and do the cola and mentos explosion!
Note, some of these will also work for partners, spouses and other people you are trying to encourage to eat healthier.
Teaching kids to make more nutritious choices starts at home with the parents. Kids will follow your lead. Set a good example. And most importantly make it fun and engaging!