I was at my son’s friend’s birthday party this past weekend, and as the pizza was being handed out, the birthday boy received his own separate meal. It had nothing to do with allergies, but rather, he was an extremely picky eater. Not only did he not like pizza (what!?), the mom said that she could count on her hand all of the different foods that her son actually eats. Obviously she’s not happy with it, but that’s her reality. While I couldn’t relate to that extent of pickiness with my own kids, I get it. Getting kids to eat healthy, let alone eat a variety of foods, is hard!
Six plus years into this parenting gig, I can say that it’s still hard. But it’s gotten easier. The truth is, the more I know, and the more I reassess and evaluate my options and gain “best practices” from other parents, the easier the healthy eating process gets for both myself and my kids.
Personally, it’s all about setting goals – achievable goals. I know when I set my mind to it, I can achieve my lifestyle goals of eating healthy and gaining energy and strength. It’s not easy, but it’s all about motivation! I know that my biggest culprit is food. I love food, and carbs (oh how I love pasta and bread), wine and sugary stuff. But I also know how to cut it out and I know my limits. While it’s never perfect, and I’m not at my ultimate goal yet, I know I’m making great progress towards it and I’m in control.
Now my kids… here’s what we’ve done that works and helps us to get them to eat healthy. It’s not perfect, and they still eat sweets. However, food is a journey and it changes as you grow. Taste buds change, preferences, and willingness to try new things. How many of us hated mushrooms as a kid but enjoy them as adults? (ME! Raising my hands!). So take it easy on yourself. All you can do is try and offer the good stuff. Ultimately, it’s up to your kids to choose what to put in their mouth in order for them to grow and have a healthy relationship with food.
Here are some of my tips for getting kids to eat healthy:
- Offer them water! Not only does it keep your kid’s body healthy, but it also suppresses their sweet tooth cravings and will keep them properly hydrated. It’s also how I start my day and it has made a big difference for me. Besides milk, I’m proud to say that water is the only liquid we offer our kids at home. We also have it handy in bottles, for on-the-go hydration.
- Sweets are offered only after the meal! This is a big rule in our house. Our kids are allowed a small dessert after dinner, but only if they finish their healthy meal first. That doesn’t mean we force them to eat or finish their meal, since we don’t want it to be bribery. That’s up to them. However, if they don’t, there is no dessert.
- Provide healthy options for snacks! My kids LOVE snacks. While we have a variety of pre-packaged items, we also have as many fruit and vegetables options. For every “packaged” item (that is by no means “bad” for them, but perhaps not as healthy as fruits or vegetables), they need to eat a fruit or vegetables of their choice.
- Limit the snacks! By the same token as my tip above, the key is to also limit the amount of snack your kids have. I know if my kids would have it their way, they would have snacks all day long including breakfast, lunch and dinner! Limiting their snack consumption means that they are more likely to eat their nutritious meals!
- Display the good, hide the bad! Our fruits are front and center in a bowl on our dining room table. It’s accessible and visible. All of the snacks (and definitely our “treats”) are tucked away in our cupboards and out of reach. It’s a simple thing, but it works as they need to ask us first before they grab the stuff that is put away, but they’re able to help themselves to the good stuff.
Here’s a great video from Cityline that also provides some great tips for providing your kids with good nutrition:
What are some of your tried and tested tips for getting your kids to eat healthy? Share your own story with the hashtag #DrinkBetterLiveBetter!
Disclosure: I received compensation for participating in the Nestlé Pure Life health and wellness program. All opinions are my own!