How to teach kids good nutrition habits. With childhood obesity on the rise in America, good nutrition is a key part of maintaining health in our youth.
Raise your hand if you have a picky eater (*raises hand). And raise your hand if you don’t have a picky eater (*raises hand again). I was blessed with a child who used to only eat 3 foods (key words being used to), and another child who eats whatever is put in front of him. The difference: We gave my daughter a choice.
One thing I’ve learned in my last almost 10 years as a parent is that we control what our children eat; for the most part. Obviously if they attend school, birthday parties, etc. and we aren’t with them all the time, we don’t always see what they are eating. But for the most part, we are the gate keepers of what goes into our children’s mouths. What I also learned is that the minute you start to give that child multiple choices of what they can eat, you’ve lost them.
You see, I always thought giving my daughter choices was a good thing. You can have A or B. Don’t want either of those? Okay, what about C or D? This went on and on until my daughter’s nutrition consisted of mainly carbs, a small amount of protein and a few veggies.
Fast forward almost 5 years and my son is born and the kid eats whatever is put in front of him. Because we stopped giving choices. “This is what is for dinner. I’m not making you something else.” He eats what the rest of us eat, and he loves it!
Today kids are given so many “kids menu” choices. Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets are what are on kids menus. Why not a smaller portion of what adults eat? My kids love steak, so why not a smaller steak for kids to have? Why do we feel like kids need to have different options than adults? I know many families like us who’s kids eat what the adults do. So why do restaurants feel the need to only offer brown food to kids?
Don’t feel like you don’t have any other options than brown and processed food for your kids.
Here are 6 ways you can work to teach good nutrition habits to kids.
Offer healthy choices more than once.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally get that all kids are different, but kids can also be taught. It takes exposure to a food up to 7 times before they will know whether they truly like it or not. So don’t give up!
Try preparing foods in different ways.
If they don’t like broccoli the first few times you offered it raw, maybe they will like it steamed, or broiled with a little olive oil, salt and pepper (my kids call this broccoli fries and love it). Try a variety of ways to prepare health options for them and you may just find one that they love.
Don’t bring other options into the house.
This is one of the easiest ways to make a change. If the poor food choices aren’t there, the kids won’t be able to wear you down to have it. Stop bringing the chicken nuggets and mac and cheese and white bread into the house. I promise they won’t starve! But you have to be stronger than them, which I know can be hard sometimes (they really know how to wear us down). 🙂
Understand that children go through phases with food.
Just as adults do, children go through phases with what they enjoy eating. I will go on a Greek yogurt kick for a solid 2 months. Then I won’t eat it for 6 months. My daughter is this way with my no bake energy bites. She will eat 2-3 a day every day for weeks. Then she won’t want them at all. This is totally normal behavior. Don’t worry, they will come back to the spinach soon enough. In the meantime, try adding it to a smoothie. They won’t know the difference.
Make sure the ingredients aren’t harming them.
A lot of processed foods can cause inflammation in the gut. Refined sugars and simple carbs to be more specific. These foods can lead to bigger issues like leaky gut, cause major bloating and stomach pain, and lead to weight gain. We aren’t helping our kids by feeding them these processed foods. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, it’s better to put the package back on the shelf. Try to stick to 5 ingredients or less.
Give yourself grace.
When we’re trying to change the way our kids it, it can take time. It took us years to change our daughter’s taste buds, but it’s doable. Don’t feel like your kids need to be relegated to kids menu-only foods. Start small with adding a veggie the enjoy. Then make it a bigger portion and make their “kid food” a smaller portion. Then try switching their main course to something palatable, like small chunks of grilled chicken with a dip, or marinated steak bites. If we can make the changes small and easily palatable, getting our kids off the processed foods will be a breeze!
Helping teach kids good nutrition habits will serve them their entire lives. Pretty soon your child will be reaching for an apple or cucumber instead of a candy bar or doughnut. And like I mentioned before, it won’t happen overnight, so be patient and I promise you it will be for the best.