Get any group of parents of young children together and food issues are a given to enter the conversation. The most common complaint is the difficulty in getting kids to eat their vegetables, closely followed by fruit. Parents often say that their offspring loved pureed fruits and vegetables but now they don’t want to eat them. So what happened?
In studies done with rodents scientists found that they remained at healthy weights when given their own food. When junk food was introduced that was all they wanted. They ate to the point of severe obesity. Humans are the same. That is because processed foods are addictive. Once processed foods are introduced to children they will resist healthy options.
As a parent you need to stay calm, positive and consistent. Mealtime is a time for families to come together and share conversation over good whole foods. Set an example by eating as much food as possible in its pure, natural state. Be firm and don’t be afraid to use consequences like ‘ you can’t have more pasta until you eat your vegetables’. Try having only healthy alternatives on hand. Limit, but don’t eliminate, snacks. The goal is having the child hungry at mealtimes.
Make your child a participant in their food education. Talk to them about why it is important to make healthy food choices. Ask them for healthy suggestions when you are meal planning. Ask them to help pick out fruits and vegetables on your weekly trip to the grocery store. Let them help you prepare the meal. During the meal you can discuss what a healthy choice your child made in the selection of the vegetable or fruit, how tasty it is and how good it is for your family’s health.
Sometimes parents have no choice but to try and disguise fruits and vegetables or just make them more appealing. Homemade pizza or quesadillas are always a good way to get veggies into young children. Veggies in a light cheese sauce is always an appetite pleaser for young and old. Veggie smoothies and popsicles can be well received. Just add some yogurt, a banana and orange juice to hide the taste of veggies. Puree vegetables and add them to spaghetti sauce. Lastly, let them know that superheroes love fruit and veggies.
Maintain balance. Allow your children to have treats once or twice a week. If you can have your children eating healthy 90% of the time, you are doing a great job!