Getting kids to eat healthy food is a challenge, no question about it. The solution? Get them involved. Kids love feeling like they’re contributing, and including them in meal planning and preparation is a great way to encourage healthy eating habits, develop basic skills, and have fun at the same time. Follow these five steps to raise healthy eaters.
1. Take Them Grocery Shopping
Yes, take kids to the store with you, and they’re likely to ask for sugary breakfast cereals. But the grocery store is also a great place to talk about healthy food, too, and introduce kids to the different food groups by visiting the dairy cases, produce department, butcher counter, and other sections of the store. And shopping isn’t all about stores – take kids to farmer’s markets, health food stores, and produce stands, too. The colorful stacks of fruits and vegetables on display are bound to inspire curiosity.
2. Look at Labels
As kids get older teach them how to read labels, looking at the recommended daily values for important nutrients as well as calories, fat, and recommended daily values. You might even make a game out of it, teaching kids to “spot the sugar” and look for fructose, glucose, and sucrose hidden in their favorite foods.
3. Experiment with New Foods
There are many fun ways to overcome kids’ resistance to trying new foods. Let them choose a new or exotic fruit or vegetable at the produce market, then together researching how to cook it. Or use one of these tricks for making fruits and veggies fun for kids. Little kids love getting a sticker with a “new food award” each time they try something new. After they’ve earned five stickers, reward them by going out for their favorite tried-and-true restaurant meal.
4. Let Them Help You Cook
There’s no better way to teach good eating habits than to involve kids with cooking. Even little kids can help add and mix ingredients, and dish out the finished meal. Older kids can take charge, choosing simple recipes and learning to follow the instructions, with your supervision. And cooking doesn’t just help in the kitchen – these activities develop coordination, teach new words, and build confidence, too.
5. Make Mealtimes Fun
Whether you’re eating at home or on the run, make mealtimes fun and a time to interact and check in. (No eating in front of the TV or in the car with the headphones on!) And sit down to dinner together as often as you can; research shows that regular family dinners help kids improve their communication skills and do better in school.