Getting our little ones to eat anything besides dino nuggets, fruit snacks, or Goldfish is a tall task. But, it’s not impossible. With some planning and creativity, you can have your kids trying foods you’d never imagined and eating a healthy diet. Keep reading to find out how.
1. Silently Switch to Whole Grains
Whole grains are jam-packed with nutrients, including protein, fiber, antioxidants, and other vitamins and minerals. A whole grain-rich diet has been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
The best part about whole grains is that you can easily and quietly swap out your pantry staples for their whole-grain cousin, and your kids won’t notice. Start with small swaps, like faro, instead of white rice, lentil pasta instead of white pasta, and so forth.
2. Take the Fear Out of Fish
Some kids may be ‘icked out’ by fish, whether it’s due to the smell or the slimy texture. Get your kids to be more open to trying fish by sprinkling some breadcrumbs on top of it and popping it in the oven. It will come out more like a chicken nugget rather than a filet of salmon, and your kids will be much more willing to try it (they will also likely love it). Talk to your kids about how the great protein in salmon will help them grow big and strong.
3. Get the Kids in the Kitchen
When introducing a new healthy food to your kids, get them as involved as possible. Try to take them to the store and have them pick out a new fruit or vegetable that looks delicious and interesting. Or, bring one home while they’re at school and have them research a recipe to make with it. Depending on their ages, you can have them prepare the dish on their own or help you chop, cut, measure, etc. Kids are much more likely to try new things (and enjoy them!) when they are part of the process.
4. Boast about the Benefits of Food
All foods have some degree of benefits — even Twinkies and other desserts! So, focus on the good when introducing your kids to a healthy diet. For example, talk about the protein that helps them grow strong in the eggs they eat for breakfast and the fiber that helps keep them healthy in the apple you pack for lunch. Even if your kids have a treat that doesn’t have any significant health benefits, you can talk about how delicious it tastes and how fun it is to enjoy treats once in a while. This positive talk helps them develop a healthy relationship with food and learn about moderation.
5. Serve One Family Meal
It’s easy as parents to get caught in the cycle of worrying that if your kids don’t like something, they won’t eat it, and will go hungry. So, you get in the habit of making a special meal for them instead of serving them what everybody else is eating. Instead, offer one family meal as the only option. This gently nudges kids to try new foods because they know that’s their only option for that meal. And who knows, they might even try something they like! When making the family meal, keep the likes of your little ones in mind so you can incorporate them into the meal. For example, if your tot loves macaroni and cheese but hates broccoli, don’t serve the broccoli as a side. Instead, mix it in with the mac and cheese, and your little eater won’t even notice it’s there.
6. Use Snack Time to Taste Test
Kids love games, so why not make trying new foods a game? You can set up a taste lab in your kitchen where your kiddos can try a few new foods — we recommend doing this as an after-school or weekend snack for maximum fun. Try healthy combos that your kids may be surprised go together, like:
- Apples and cheese
- Apples and peanut butter
- Veggies and hummus
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Whole-grain crackers and cheese
- Nuts (this one is especially fun because there are so many different kinds of nuts to try!)
- New fruits
These healthy snack choices with a fun “taste test” will keep snack time interesting while exposing your kids to new healthy and delicious foods that can also be integrated into breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Having little ones who are picky eaters is quite frustrating. But, with a little bit of patience and planning, you can turn your picky eater into a mini foodie in no time — while also gently introducing them to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
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