Even on the best of days, it can be hard to find the energy to eat healthy. That is especially true when you’ve got small children who have different eating schedules and picky diets. Between school, sports, and other after school activities, finding the time to incorporate healthy whole foods can feel overwhelming.
Here are some tips to consider if you want to get your kids eating more fruits and veggies and fewer chips and cookies during the hectic school week.
1. Pre-Prepare Foods.
Make preparing snacks for kids part of your shopping habit. As you come home with groceries, don’t just put the fruits and veggies in the fridge. Divvy up the bulk foods into smaller, grab-and-go containers that will save you time in the mornings as you’re running out the door.
Having these easy, healthy snacks already on hand will keep you from relying on the drive-thru lane later in the day when you’re heading home from work and school. Which leads us to the next point…
2 .Keep a Cooler in the Car.
Fresh, whole foods are difficult to incorporate into diets when you’re gone all day because they require being kept cool. By keeping a small cooler in your trunk or backseat, all of those prepared foods can be tossed into your car in the morning and make it to the afternoon pickup still chilled.
Oftentimes, convenience trumps healthy. By making healthy convenient, kids have easy access to healthy food whenever they’re around.
3. Get Kids Involved.
For kids to have a healthy relationship with food, they need to understand how their food gets made. Allowing kids to be part of the shopping and cooking not only gets kids excited about foods they’d otherwise not care about. It also allows kids to form a more healthy relationship with food as they have a model of healthy cooking and eating from a young age.
Food is often used as reward (or punishment) by well-meaning parents. But this can cause an unhealthy body images and eating disorders like anorexia or binge-eating. Food should be a positive part of a kid’s life, and allowing kids to have a measure of control can promote this positivity from an early age.
4. Creativity is Your Friend.
For younger kids, words like broccoli and green beans can sound like curse words. But, if you call broccoli dinosaur trees, suddenly they become much more interesting and edible. Instead of being forced to eat something healthy, kids can imagine they’re a giant dinosaur eating little baby dinosaur trees.
Creativity towards food not only gets kids to eat healthy foods they otherwise might shy away from. It can help make dinner time fun. Which, as many parents know, is not often the case. Just make sure you’re comfortable hearing lots of dino rawwwrs when you’re out to dinner.
5. Be Patient
As kids grow, so do their palates. Science has shown what parents already know: kids love sweets Bitter foods (like green veggies) can be especially offensive to a kid’s taste buds. Ease into these flavors by adding sweetness to them (green smoothies that features fruits and veggies are great ways to ease these flavors into a child’s palate!).
Even if your child puts on a Broadway worthy scene when you try unsuccessfully to feed them brussel sprouts, don’t give up on it forever. Eventually kids will develop more nuanced palates. The important thing is that you are a good role model--even if your kids won’t eat right now, they will someday.
Don’t give up on getting your kids to eat healthy. In spite of the tantrums, being a healthy food role model is better for kids--and for you--in the long run. Because, really, who can say no to stealing some of their kid’s Goldfish crackers?