As a parent, I’m used to hearing the phrase “I’m hungry” but unfortunately I’m also used to hearing “I don’t like that”. I think it’s safe to say that all parents want their children to eat healthy foods, but what can you do when your child would prefer to eat something else. A balanced diet full of healthy whole foods, fruits and vegetables helps children to grow, learn and stay healthy. I’d like to think that all kids get their 5 servings of fruits and vegetables in each day, but the reality is many kids are falling short of this goal. As a parent, I’m well aware that the choice of a cookie will win out over a carrot any day, so here are some tips to encourage your kids to eat their vegetables.
Get kids involved in meal prep and grocery shopping. Kids are more likely to eat something if they have had a part in preparing it. Get them involved in the kitchen or let them pick out the dinner vegetable at the grocery store. Farmers markets are great places to allow them to try new produce. Our clinic is a sponsor of the Chaska Farmers Market Power of Produce Program that gives kids tokens to use at the farmers market to pick out their own fruits/vegetables to bring home and try. Kids love the independence of picking out and buying their own foods!
Model healthy eating choices. Kids are super smart and observant and look up to their parents. For better or worse they are always watching what we as parents are doing. If you snack on fruits and vegetables they are more likely to eat them too! So make the healthy choice for both of you.
Avoid a battle at mealtimes. As a parent I know that it’s really hard to make a child do something they don’t want to do. It’s reasonable to ask kids to take a “no thank you bite” but it is no longer advised to make kids clean their plate or finish all of their vegetables. Try not to fall into the trap of bribing your kids to eat their vegetables and avoid using dessert as a reward. Your job as a parent is to offer a variety of whole healthy foods and their job as a kid is to decide what to put into their bodies.
Eat together. Studies have shown time and time again that family meals benefit all ages of kids. Families who eat together typically make healthier eating choices. Sitting down as a family allows the family to reconnect after a busy day. Sharing a meal together has been shown to reduce the risk of teenage depression and drug use. Due to busy schedules, sometimes it’s not possible to have dinner together, maybe breakfast can be your family meal. Or make it a priority to share a meal together on the weekends.