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One of the most difficult parts of raising a child is getting them to willingly eat healthy foods. School-aged children around 6 to 12 years old, in particular, are known for being extremely picky
in their tastes, with their preferences often changing dramatically from one week to the next. However, by taking their established favorite foods and swapping elements out for more healthy alternatives, you can keep your child happy while also improving their overall health.
Here are some easy ways you can get started.
Teach Your Children by Example
The first way you can get children to eat their vegetables and other healthy parts of their meals is to teach
them by example. Children often behave in a way that is significantly impacted by the way their parents or caregivers behave. As such, if you regularly express disgust or apathy toward a particular vegetable, or don’t completely clean your plate at dinnertime, it is likely that your child will do the same. To encourage your child to take part in healthier behaviors, be sure to demonstrate excitement when the opportunity to eat healthy foods arises, and demonstrate good eating behaviors in general. (If you like to indulge in dessert or snacks throughout the day, do so sparingly
, because your child will also try to copy that behavior.)
Have Fun with Food
Try making food fun
! For instance, instead of just throwing a bunch of vegetables into a bowl and calling it a salad, incorporate broccoli, shredded carrot and a bed of spinach leaves to create a salad jungle, complete with trees and vines. You can cut vegetables into the shape of their favorite animal or use color in an interesting way, like having your entire meal be orange
(sweet potatoes, carrots and oranges are perfect for this, as well as lighter foods seasoned with turmeric). Follow the same theme when you’re presenting snacks for your child to get them even more into the spirit.
Incorporate Healthy Alternatives
You can take the opportunity to swap out elements of your kids’ favorite foods for healthier alternatives. For instance, if your child obsesses over enchiladas, instead of using heavily processed tortillas, use cabbage leaves instead. Pair it with a healthy guacamole
that swaps out preservatives for organic ingredients that are also quite tasty when combined together. Pizzas
can also be made healthier by using cauliflower for the crust—plus, this would be a great recipe for your kids to try out.
Let Your Children Help
Children also enjoy eating meals they helped to create. Older children can do more in the kitchen than just snapping green beans - take the opportunity to teach them basic cooking techniques
including simple knife skills, how to properly use a stove and oven, and so forth. Then, when it is time to cook dinner, have your child handle a major part of the dish (as much as they are able or willing). Be open and encouraging - cooking isn’t an exact science, so try not to be too picky about technique or appearance. You will find that they will be much more likely to eat the food that they helped create
with their own two hands, regardless of how the food looks, or even tastes.
In general, remember that getting your children to eat in a more healthy manner requires four major steps: leading by example, making food fun, changing recipes to include healthy alternatives, and encouraging them to lend a hand in the kitchen. If you follow these steps, you may find that your child actually requests an all-orange meal each week!