Getting your little ones to eat healthy — and enjoy it — can be difficult, especially if they’re picky eaters. Loading up a plate full of unfamiliar food can be daunting for kids, so it’s important to find fun and creative ways to get them to eat and appreciate healthy foods. One of the keys is to give them plenty of options. It’s also a good idea to let them know that if they try a new food and don’t like it, they can try something else. Never try to force a child to eat, as this can have damaging consequences.
Offering up a rainbow of foods on their plate can help a child learn to experiment and make mealtimes fun, which makes eating something they look forward to rather than something feel they have to get through. Consider going to the local farmers market and allowing your child to choose a few new things to try, or start your own vegetable garden and have your child help dig, plant, and weed. Not only will this help young people learn to appreciate what they’re eating, it will give them a sense of responsibility that will last a lifetime.
Grow Your Own Food
Starting a vegetable garden will not only help your family eat healthier, but it can also help teach your kids responsibility and the importance of taking care of a living thing. Look for plants that are hearty and will flourish no matter what the climate is like where you live, such as bean plants. Also, make sure your kids have the right tools to get started and to help them stay safe. You can start here for some great resources on how to get started.
Make It Fun
There are many ways to make mealtimes fun, from creating “food art” on your child’s plate (such as making broccoli trees and a dinosaur cookie cutter to create fun sandwich shapes) to allowing your child to use his fingers instead of utensils. This will help your child use his imagination and associate mealtimes with happiness, so look for different ways to bring a little joy to the table. Hello Wonderful has some great ideas on creating healthy food art.
Let Them Help
A kitchen is often a fun place for kids; they love to help mix ingredients and watch them transform into an entire meal. Allowing your kids to help make breakfast or dinner will not only help them appreciate what they’re eating, but it will also teach them invaluable skills. Just make sure you use age-appropriate recipes and kid-friendly tools so that everyone stays safe.
Let Them Choose
Kids often balk at new foods not because they think they won’t like them, but because they aren’t given a choice. Offer your child a variety of fruits and veggies and let him know that if he doesn’t like something in particular, he doesn’t have to eat it, and he can always come back to it later. Our tastes change as we get older, so there’s always the chance that he’ll enjoy something down the road that he doesn’t appreciate now.
Consider taking your child to the Studio City Farmers Market and letting them pick out some fruits and veggies that look appealing to them. The market is open Sundays 8am to 2pm, making for a fun family outing on the weekend.
Helping your child get excited about eating healthy isn’t always easy, so try to stay patient as he tries new things and remember that he may not enjoy the same things you do. Giving him options will allow for the most success, so aim for at least a couple of different vegetables at mealtimes and let him choose ones he’d like to try when you’re food shopping.
Guest Post by Sheila Olson of fitsheila.com