7 Ways to Help Your Children Eat Healthier
Guest Post by Kara Swanson
As the plate is pushed away with a furrowed brow, your hard work in the kitchen is met with the words, “I don’t like it!” Mothers around the world know the words that often follow: “But you haven’t even tried it.”
We’ve all been there. Because we all want our children to eat healthy. But it’s just so difficult. Even the few healthy meals sprinkled in here and there can create a battle. Is it really so much to ask for our children to eat the healthy meals we prepare for them. It’s simply a mother’s pipe dream to have a child willingly eat their vegetables, right?
Well, before you get ahead of yourself and become too frustrated with your children, you need to take a few steps back. I want to offer you 7 ways to help your children eat healthier.
1. It starts with you
First, you need to realize that the process of getting your children to eat healthy begins with you. These dependent little things are not going to independently choose healthy options unless they see mommy taking the lead. So, what does your diet look like? Is the drive thru a normal part of your routine? Or maybe you have a secret stash of your own “treats.” We all know how intuitive our children are. Depending on the age of your children, there’s a good chance those little eyes have seen you partake in your secret stash. And not that the occasional snack is bad, but when it becomes a part of every day your children begin to pick up on these habits. They expect candy, fast food, and treats to be a common part of their lives as well. But if they continually observe mommy choosing healthy options, they will be much more inclined to do the same.
2. Realize it’s a process
Even after you begin to make changes in your own nutrition, your children won’t suddenly begin asking for fresh produce or kale salads. Begin by introducing vegetables and fruit into their diet. Make it a common part of their day. It doesn’t need to be announced as a revolutionary new thing: “We’re eating vegetables now!” Simply begin introducing healthier options in place of previously unhealthy options.
And there’s a good chance you have a picky child. Maybe your child doesn’t like vegetables, only likes a couple types of fruit, and seems to lift his or her nose to anything you put on the table. You might have to get creative. Maybe green beans and broccoli aren’t the options to start with. Try blending a smoothie with a couple servings of spinach in it. The other ingredients will be able to mask any flavor they would otherwise pick up on.
One thing to consider is that the sooner you start the easier it will be. If you can begin introducing clean, healthy options at a very young age you will set yourself up for success. Hold off on introducing processed treats for as long as you can. My girls have grown up on fruits and vegetables and my five year old still thinks cherry tomatoes are a treat.
3. Monitor what you put into your pantry
Getting your child to eat healthy requires that you be proactive, mama! Think back to the last time you wanted a snack…if you’re like most American families, you simply opened your pantry and immediately had countless prepackaged snacks and candies to choose from. Friend, it begins at the grocery store. If
you’re going to help those little ones avoid sugary snacks and highly processed junk, you need to prevent it from entering your home. If it’s not there you can’t be tempted by it. And no, I am not saying you have to prevent treats from entering your home altogether. There is a time and place for treats and I will get to that.
And speaking of filling your pantry…when you do buy treats, don’t by them in bulk. Maybe you have some friends coming over and you want to have some snacks available. If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for a bargain. The family bag of bite-sized candy bars may seem like a good deal for your wallet. But we all know how that turns out. You’re left with 75% of the bag and it’s stored in your pantry. It seemed like such a good deal at that time, but night after night of binging from the same bag of candy is not a good deal for your health.
4. Get the whole family involved…that means dad, too
If you want your children to eat healthy, allow no exemptions. The whole family needs to get on board. And yes, that means dad too. When anything has the support of dad you can be sure that the success will come much easier.
5. Make treats special – not the norm
Do your kids expect dessert after dinner? Or maybe when you’re at the mall. Do they expect a cookie or a soft pretzel? Or maybe you’re driving past a fast food chain. Do they expect an ice cream cone? Habits can be good, but unfortunately, when it comes to health and nutrition, bad habits are very easy to come by.
Make sure treats are viewed as something special in the minds of your children rather than a common occurrence.
6. Plan ahead
Back to being proactive: you need to plan ahead. I believe road trips are one of the biggest challenges to eating healthy. But that’s only when we don’t plan. Our family recently took a road trip. And as you and I both know everyone’s favorite way to pass the time in the car is eating. But instead of letting my family’s nutrition fall prey to whatever the gas station had stocked, I planned ahead. I brought everyone’s favorite drinks, plenty of raw vegetables, fruit, and a few special treats.
And don’t forget, planning ahead goes beyond road trips and vacations. Maybe you’re going to a party or a barbecue that you know won’t have any nutritional options. Bring a plate of raw or grilled vegetables so that you know you’ll have at least one option to choose from.
7. Do your research – I’ll help you get started
Every child is different and each one comes with his or her own set of tastes and preferences. You may have to get creative. You may have to do some research. Don’t give up on vegetables just because your little girl won’t eat her peas. Instead of forcing her to eat peas, find an alternative option for her. There are plenty of vegetables to choose from. And you can always circle back later on to an option they didn’t previously care for.
I want to give you a head start on getting your child (and your family) to eat healthy. I am going to give you my 7 Delicious Clean Eating Meals. Each of these meals are easy to make and there’s sure to be something for everyone in your family. I also love sharing my “London Eats” posts on Instagram where I share healthy meal ideas for kids. You can follow along here @karaswanson.
About the Author
Kara and her husband, Noah, live in Iowa with their two little girls, London and Iylee. She is the founder and nutrition expert of Life Well Lived. Kara runs bootcamps that teach women how to lose fat, eat the right foods for their body, and make clean eating a lifestyle that lasts. Kara loves cooking, reading, traveling, and playing Barbies with her two little girls.