We gets lots of emails from parents telling us they know how important it is to feed their kids healthy foods, but they’re just not sure how to do it. Despite my own background in nutrition, I have had to go through some trial and error with my own kids. In fact, sometimes it seems like every day is a trial and error. I think as parents we all have good intentions of feeding our kids good, wholesome foods at every meal and snack. But the reality is that sometimes life gets in the way and it just doesn’t always happen. We need backup as parents……..and when I say backup I really mean resources. This is actually the reason that Super Healthy Kids exists at all! Amy and I really want to provide resources to help parents and families eat better. When it comes to nutrition and eating there are literally thousands of different places you can turn to on the internet to get resources about what to feed your kids, how to feed your kids, when to feed your kids what food and the list could go on and on. It is true that different things work for different kids, but I have found that the following tips have helped my own children to be good eaters.
1) Set an Example.
By far the best predictor of children’s eating behavior is the eating patterns of their parents. If you are a picky eater, then its less likely your kids are going to branch out and try different foods. Kids eat what they know, and they won’t ask for a special meal if they do not know it is an option. It all begins at the grocery store. Whatever you bring into your house is what your kids will eat. If there aren’t fruits and vegetables available to them at your house, then they definitely will not eat them! If they see you eating them and if healthy food is served at meals, they are much more likely to eat those foods.
2) Use Choose My Plate
Choose My Plate is one of the best visual aids I have come across to teach kids about portion size, balance and variety. Unlike the food guide pyramid, choose my plate is a visual aid that kids actually use and learn from every time they eat. When I use this plate at meals, my kids definitely eat a more balanced meal and consume more fruits and vegetables than they would otherwise. Additionally, I prepare more balanced meals because I have to think about what I am going to put in each section. I truly believe that using this plate with your kids is one of the best ways to helping your kids be better eaters. I have found from my own personal experience, that consistently using this plate at meals has changed the way I think about food and has definitely changed the way my kids think about food.
3) Make food fun
Kids love to play make believe and they also love games. Green beans might not be super appealing to a child who was hoping for mac and cheese. But if the green beans are fishing poles and they have to catch 5 fish in a minute and eat the fishing pole with it, suddenly the green beans become more appealing. Relating healthy food to fun things the child already loves and turning it into a game is a great way to get a young child to enjoy eating foods they might not normally want to eat.
4) Get them involved
Children are more likely to eat the foods served at a meal if they help prepare it. I have found that letting your kids be involved from the beginning of food preparation – the grocery store – helps them to be excited to eat the food you are preparing. We have loved having a garden and teaching our kids about where food comes from, and letting them eat fresh produce right from our backyard. Letting them clean carrots, snap beans, mix the dressing and set the table gives them a sense of pride and makes them more enthusiastic and cooperative at meal time.
5) Offer diverse food colors
We all eat with our eyes, but children especially do this. Fruits and vegetables add a lot of color to a plate and you can expose them to more colors by adding more fruits and veggies to their plates. While adults tend to like flavors mingled together, children often prefer them separate. Using the Choose My Plate helps not only to show you what foods you should have on your plate, but keeps food separate which kids love.
Take our challenge!
By using Choose My Plate to feed your kids, your family will eat better, have more energy, and there will be less complaining at meals! Use the Choose My Plate method with your family for an entire week and see the results for yourself. To purchase a Choose My Plate for Kids click here.