Having a healthy, balanced diet and getting the right nutrition is vital for us at all stages of our lives, but it’s especially important for children as it gives them the biological building blocks that they need to grow up fit and strong. Teaching our children to enjoy healthy food can also inculcate good habits which will stay with them throughout their lives, but all parents know that getting children to eat healthily isn’t always easy. When it comes to mealtimes, parents need all the help they can get, so here are four handy tips to get picky youngsters eating more freely.
1. Encourage Them to Love Their Greens
Most of us know that we should all eat at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day, and indeed some experts now say that seven portions per day are an ideal amount. Little steps can lead to big gains, so try to make your children eat a little more fruit and vegetables day by day by increasing their portion size in small increments. They may be too young to understand the nutritional benefits of getting all the vitamins and minerals they need, so instead explain to them how it will make them big and strong, or how it will give them excellent eyesight – like a superhero.
2. Set a Good Example
Smart parents quickly realize that their children love nothing more than to emulate them; it’s how they learn, so it’s vital that we always try to set a good example, whether that be brushing our teeth, working hard or not being too engrossed in our screens. When it comes to nutrition, that means ensuring that your own meals are balanced and contain lots of vegetables and leafy greens. Children who see you reaching for a piece of fruit rather than a chocolate bar or bag of potato chips are much more likely to do the same.
3. Mix Healthy Ingredients in Their Favorite Meals
Children always have a favorite meal or foodstuff, and unless we’re lucky it’s unlikely to be a heathy one. One way to get around this is to incorporate healthy items such as vegetables into their meals without them knowing. This can be easier than it sounds, and to put your plan into action you’ll need a high-quality cutting board, preferably a wooden one which is easy to clean. By using a wood cutting board you can finely chop and dice salad leaves and other vegetables into small pieces which can then be hidden inside other food items such as mashed potato, pies or pizza toppings. It’s tricking your children for the greater good of their health, and they’ll probably never find out you’re doing it.
4. Opt for the Carrot Rather Than the Stick
Good parenting involves knowing when to use the carrot and when the stick, and quite appropriately it’s best to use the carrot approach when it comes to picky eaters. Trying to cajole your kids into eating healthily can only make them more stubborn in their ways, but providing incentives can bring much more positive results. Keep a diary of how many portions of vegetables and fruit they eat every day, and when they reach a pre-set amount you can provide them with a treat such as a trip to the movies or a new video game, or even a candy bar. After all, sweet treats are okay in moderation and they can be a powerful motivational tool to help your children adopt healthier eating patterns.
Teaching your children to eat well and to enjoy healthy, nutritious foods is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. If your kids are picky eaters, don’t panic, simply reach for your cutting board and get ready to chop a selection of vegetables into easily hidden pieces. When you also offer incentives for eating healthily, and encourage a love of nutritious food, you may soon find that your children aren’t such picky eaters after all.