Making sure children are healthy has been a regular conversation in today’s society. First lady Michelle Obama has made it her personal crusade throughout the past few years to fight obesity and teach children about eating healthy and trying fruits and vegetables.
In a world where , and are fast and easily accessible, it sometimes becomes a battle to figure out how to get kids to eat healthy.
That leads us to this week’s Mom Talk question:
“How do you get children to eat healthy?”
JoAnn is a mother of three, plus many more, as well as a grandmother of two.
One of the most successful ways to get kids to eat healthy is to include them in food preparation and selection.
At the store, let them pick fruits and vegetables that appeal to them. Ask them to find yellow ones, red ones, green ones and purple ones.
Once home, let them help rinse them and finish cutting them with a regular knife or kitchen knife, after you have done the initial trimming with a sharp knife.
Let them arrange them on a plate and possibly put a little dip alongside, if that is useful. Let them make small plates of those fruits and veggies that they helped shop for and prepare.
For times when the foods come already prepared, encourage them to try a bite, but never force a child to eat something. Do not turn the conversation to how they need to eat certain things to be healthy. Rather, be the example you want them to follow.
Do not make the dinner table a source of combat or an atmosphere of punishment versus rewards, and most kids will follow in their own time. The foundation of healthy eating begins with seeing what the adults do.
Limit access to desserts other than fresh fruits. You can stand half of a banana in a pineapple ring.
Another creative example I saw was a dish of mashed potatoes with cooked broccoli standing in it, to resemble trees in a forest. Get creative and make food fun!
For snacks, have some veggies cleaned and washed or quarter an apple. Several small meals a day works well for most people, especially those with smaller tummies.
Jen Hatton is a working wife and mother to an energetic three-year-old son.
Trying to get my son to eat healthy has been a challenge at times. I used to struggle with making sure he had the right balance of food groups, limited his juice intake and didn't allow candy or sweets. Then, I realized all of that was unrealistic. That by teaching him good eating habits and not forcing what I wanted on him, it would give him the chance to make his own choices and decide what he likes.
I still am very aware of what he eats, how much and what types of foods. But I don’t obsess over it. I’ve learned that if he eats a cupcake, it won’t hurt him, and if he doesn’t finish all his vegetables at night, there’s always tomorrow.
By becoming relaxed, I’ve learned that my son does like healthy foods. He’d rather have tomatoes than candy, he’d rather eat green beans instead of cake. He enjoys sweets, but he chooses to eat healthier foods nine out of 10 times. He also enjoys being part of the food preparation process and learning about foods, where they come from, why they are good for you and how they give his body energy.
Some things I’ve done to help encourage him to eat healthier are:
- Get him involved. Even at the age of 3, he’s able to help in small ways prepare meals and snacks. By allowing him to help, he feels he’s part of the meal making process. He becomes more excited to eat the meal that he’s helped create.
- Get creative. Making kid-friendly meals is always a sure fire way to get children interested in eating. My son likes when his food is fun, such as a celery stick with peanut butter and raisins, which he thinks are “ants on a log” or pancakes with a face made out of fruit. Being creative in food presentation goes a long way in encouraging children to eat what you make for them.
- Teach him. My son enjoys many fruits and vegetables, even more now that he knows where they come from. We’ve shown him where produce comes from by taking him to local farms to pick his own apples, peaches, pumpkins or watch as crops are planted and harvested. He’s even, with help from me, started his own backyard garden.
- Practice what you preach. I’m the first one to admit that after a long day, the last thing I want to do is cook, and the temptation of grabbing takeout on the way home is sometimes hard to resist. However, if I want my son to make healthy eating choices, he needs to see me do the same.
As a parent of two girls, one 8 year old and a 2 year old, I have been through many phases of parenting.Both my girls are very different in character, and I learn something new every day.
Getting kids to eat right can be a headache, to say the least. They want the stuff that’s high in sugar and the most colorful to see.
Fruit gummy snacks and Star cookies are OK from time to time, but letting children eat this all the time is definitely not healthy eating. As much as we would like candy bars and ice cream to be part of the basic food groups, it’s just not so.
It’s important for kids to eat and enjoy grains, vegetables and dairy. Some kids are lactose intolerant, but they are soy products that they can try. And if a child wants a fruit snack, give that child fruit for a snack.
If kids think the food they are eating is fun, they will be more open to eat it without fight. By making designs on the plate with healthy food and playing games, children have gained a humorous memory, and they will continue to seek that feeling and recreate it. However, not all kids are easily amused and won’t fall for parlor tricks. What you cook with can be an important aspect to look at, like the types of oil, seasonings, ingredients and even what you cook it in.
If a parent uses a lot of oil in their cooking, a good idea would be to use olive oil as a healthy alternative or using the foods natural juices. In addition to the oil, it’s important to look at salt. Salt is a very dangerous thing if not used properly. It can cause heart problems, blood pressure problems and a wide range of health issues. As a substitute for standard table salt, a lot of doctors suggest sea salt. It has the same rich flavor and half the sodium.
Parents could also look at what lessons and programs are being implemented at school and calibrate between both school and home. Today's schools are very health conscious, as they should be, and see that children that eat right will more than likely eat right as adults. Children who eat healthy are typically more active, smarter and overall happier with their lives.
As parents, we are responsible for our children’s well-being and just because we ate it as a kid doesn’t mean we should expose our kids to the same. Think smart and our children will follow. We are, after all, a leading example.