I know that many of us are striving to personally eat better as part of our New Year’s resolutions and there is no reason that you can’t also inspire to do the same for your children. Did you know that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years? Starting healthy eating habits early on is so important to the overall future health and wellness of your children.
Throughout my children’s early years, we’ve certainly had our battles when it comes to food. My 11 month old daughter is in the stage where she wants to try everything and we are doing our best to ensure that we introduce her palate to many different flavors and textures. My son ate nearly anything and everything as a baby, but as he has transitioned to the preschool years he has become much pickier and more difficult to feed. He tends to want to stick to the same few foods so it can be a challenge to have him try new and different foods.
With the help of TrayTalk.org, we’ve been able to implement some new techniques that allow me to feed my children healthier and varied options without too much of a battle. TrayTalk.org is a blog that was launched by the School Nutrition Association, to inform parents and caretakers of the steps being taken in our nations lunchrooms to ensure healthy eating habits are being formed and to also educate them with tips and tools to help them eat healthier at home.
Below are 8 tips that I use daily to help my kids eat healthier in 2017 and beyond:
Give Them Choices
As any parent of a toddler knows all too well, kiddos want to make their own choices. By allowing our son to choose what he is going to eat, we’ve solved so many headaches. Allowing your children to choose from two vegetables or two fruit or what flavor jelly they want for their toast, you may find that they are much more likely to happily eat their food. Making their own decisions gives them autonomy and that they have a bit of control over what they are eating.
Let Them Help In The Kitchen
Grab a stool and have them give you a helping hand when preparing meals. My son has so much fun helping cook meals and it makes him so much more excited to eat. Also, cooking is a life skill that can never be started too young. Whether they help by washing off veggies in the sink, mixing ingredients or by chopping up veggies, let them be involved in the cooking process.
Feed Them The Rainbow
Add bright colors to meals. Kids are often visual eaters so add lots of colors to their food choices to entice them to try new foods.
Teach Them About Food and Where It Comes From
Grow a garden together! We’ve been doing this since my children were itty bitty and as time has went on, our 3 year old has turned into quite the gardener. He has learned so much by watching seeds grow into plants and seeing those plants produce lots of yummy vegetables. The pride he takes from being able to harvest veggies that we have grown is so cute and he loves exclaiming, “we grew this!” at dinner time or as he plucks another tomato off a plant.
Shake It Up
Are you kids stuck on eating foods a certain way? Shake it up! If your kids are reluctant to eat their veggies cooked, try them raw. Serve them with an array of dips (hummus, ranch made from greek yogurt, bean dip) and let them go dip crazy. For pasta, try different sauces to expand their palate and you may find a new favorite (we love a spinach cream sauce and it’s such an easy way to sneak in extra veggies). Funny story…my son refuses to eat corn warm, but will eat frozen corn like it’s his favorite thing in the world.
Try and Try Again
Did you know that sometimes you need to introduce the same food to a baby 10-15 times before they’ll like it or even try it? I’ve found this same thing to be true, even for older children. Be patient and keep offering foods. You may find that after a few extra exposures that they may be more likely to eat foods that they once scoffed at.
Make It Fun
Make food fun and therefore more exciting for kids to eat! I love these bananagrams with fun and positive messages written on the peel. Other easy ideas: plate food in picture forms, write on orange peels to make funny faces, or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes. If you search Google or Pinterest for “fun food ideas for children” there are SO many to choose from.
Family style meals can be a game changer for picky or sparse eaters. By having the food at the table it changes the mood and slows down the meal . For the picky eater, it allows them a sense of control and also another dimension of interaction with their food. With family style meals, each member takes at least a small portion of every dish being served onto their plate to try (even if it’s just one bite).
Be sure to visit TrayTalk.org for more information that assist you in helping your family eat healthier this year. TrayTalk.org provides hot topics articles, success story profiles and facts on school meal programs nationwide. Parents can learn more from real school nutrition programs to better understand the successes and challenges of providing healthy meals to students. It’s a new forum for everything school nutrition-related, allowing parents a peek into school cafeterias to see all the different tools they use to encourage healthy eating habits for our children. Read more about their nutrition education programs, such as cooking lessons, farm to school, ethnic inspired meals and so much more. They also have a great Facebook Page with so much fun information and ideas!
What are the biggest food struggles that you have in your home? Have you found any tips that make mealtimes easier for your family?
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with TrayTalk.org. All thoughts and opinions are my own.