Get Your Picky Eaters Involved In NutritionBy DuBose Fitness
Sometimes we parents run into a bit of a predicament. We truly want to be positive role models for our kids, and to foster healthy family habits, but it can just be so hard. Kids have preferences! In most circumstances, they’d prefer the macaroni and cheese and hot dogs to green beans and chicken breast. And who can blame them? Sometimes that sounds pretty tempting!
But when you’re trying to make changes in your own diet, and in your own lifestyle, how do you cope with picky eaters? When family fitness and family nutrition is your goal, how do you announce to your kids, “Hey! It’s nothing but lettuce and chicken from now on?!”
You don’t have to. Here are 4 steps to get your picky eaters involved in nutrition, so the whole family will be eating and living better, healthier lives.
1. Take it slowly.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Nor will your kids eat quinoa by morning. If you’re just beginning to implement a plan for better nutrition, it’s best to take it slowly.
Scientists, doctors and nutritionists agree: it’s better to add than subtract. Add healthful, whole and fresh foods you love rather than taking away foods that are “bad” for you. Rather than subtracting the baked potato from your family’s weekly menu, why not add a baked sweet potato instead?
You can’t expect your family to change their dietary habits at the tip of a hat. Kids love routine, and if Tuesday has always been pizza night, you’re going to have a tough crowd to woo when you tell them those days are gone.
An overhaul of your family’s diet all at once is a sure recipe for failure. Instead, take it step by step. Make small changes that, at first, they may not even notice! Gradually your family will grow accustomed to more healthy foods and you can begin to make more substantial modifications.
2. Involve your kids.
Involve your kids with meal planning… and your spouse, too. Each week, sit down for an hour or so and talk about the meals you like best. For breakfast, lunch, and supper. And don’t forget to include the snacks, too. Then, make a menu based on everyone’s preferences, and go shopping for the ingredients.
If your kids are accustomed to processed and sugary foods, this may be easier said than done. Explain to the younger children that there’s a list – a grocery list – that you must stick to. Make it fun; stage a scavenger hunt in the grocery store if your kids are just a bit older. If anyone comes back to the cart with something that’s not on the list, they get a point deducted. Winner gets to choose Saturday night’s movie.
And involving the kids doesn’t stop at meal planning. Have you ever watched those kids’ cooking competitions on television? Kids can learn their way around healthy ingredients at an early age. At least one night each week, have the family get together and participate in creating a culinary masterpiece. It’s fun, it’s healthy and your children will be learning skills that will last a lifetime.
As you prepare or cook food, explain to your kids why each ingredient is healthy. It doesn’t have to be complex. Simply stating, “this turkey is protein, which helps our muscles grow stronger” is just fine. For older kids, feel free to go more in depth about vitamins, minerals and even the healthy fats in each food you prepare.
3. Snacks are healthy – keep them that way!
When kids are little, we tend to feed them on a set schedule. Breakfast at one time. A few hours later, there’s a little snack. Then lunch. Then nap, then snack. Supper is usually the last meal, but there may be a snack between dinner and the last tooth brushing of the day.
As they get older, that all changes.
“Mom! Can I have a popsicle?”
“Daddy, I’m staaaarving!”
Here’s an idea: why not keep a snack drawer? Stock the drawer with healthy treats to last, say, a week. Applesauce pouches, granola bars, mixed nuts, dried fruits and a few “specials,” like fig bars, are examples of what you can include. Put dividers in the drawer if you have more than one child.
Then, tell your children that those are their snacks for the week. If they feel hungry they can simply grab something from the drawer. But warn them that they should budget, because once their slot is empty, it won’t be refilled until the beginning of the new week!
That said, kids are going to snack. It’s important that you keep those unhealthy snacks out of sight (or refrain from buying them at all) and keep healthy snacks in plain sight. Many households have an “open basket” policy, where fresh produce is kept on the table or countertop. Apples, oranges, pears and grapes are ready to be bitten into when the snack cravings hit.
Label a drawer in your refrigerator as fair game, too. Baby carrots, cucumber slices and even olives can be chosen as snacks, as can yogurt and even salsa!
Let them snack and let them choose. But keep the healthy options in plain sight and be sure to monitor what they’re eating.
4. Gradually make the transition.
You’ve seen them – the magazine articles that tell you that you can replaced mashed potatoes with pureed cauliflower. That you can “hide” carrots in your children’s meatballs.
Sure. You can.
But is that the point? Are you trying to trick your kids into eating healthy foods? We think that’s counterproductive. Instead of fooling your kids into thinking they’re eating an unhealthy food, whilst sneaking a veggie in, why not just show them how delicious healthy foods can be?
Again, you can’t make the change overnight. But you can do it. Do a little research and find a few substitutes for the foods your kids crave. Do you need a few examples? We’ve got them!
- When your kid is an ice cream fan, you’re prepared. You’ve put a little container of yogurt in the freezer. Hand him the cup and a spoon.
- Your child loves spaghetti. She can’t get enough! Cook up a spaghetti squash and serve it with her usual sauce. Yes, it’s a golden yellow, but tell her why it looks the way it does.
- Your son could live off potato chips. Instead, let him snack on air popped popcorn with just a bit of salt.
You can make substitutions in your cooking, too. Rather than butter, use olive or coconut oil. Instead of sour cream, try Greek yogurt. Use applesauce instead of oil. There are hundreds upon hundreds of articles available online to help you gradually make the transition to a healthier lifestyle.
However you choose to do it is your choice. But healthy eating at home begins with you! Sure, your kids have preferences. You do, too. There are things they will and will not eat… unless they’re the only options! When no cookies are in sight, your kids will grab an orange. Guaranteed.
Make it a habit to shop for and make accessible fresh, healthful foods. Keep the processed and sugary foods out of sight, or out of the home. Make your children a part of the menu planning process. Try not to expect your family to change their habits overnight.
Then, gradually transition even the pickiest eaters into a healthy nutritional lifestyle. We know you’re going to love it, and your kids will just eat it up!