“Broccoli is my favorite,” said no kid ever! We all wish our kids craved salad and fresh fruit instead of chips and candy. And, scraping those veggies into the trash every night is so frustrating!
When we become parents, we set goals for ourselves. We plan to feed our family home-cooked, healthy food and we expect them to be grateful for it. But it doesn’t really go that way.
If the reality often looks more like you begging your toddler to eat just a bite or two of veggies each night, you’re not alone! It seems like every kid has mastered the art of sitting at the dinner table with their arms crossed and lips tightly shut, refusing to put anything green into their mouth.
You know feeding your family a healthy diet is super important, but there’s got to be an easier way. The trick is to make small, gradual changes that can add up over time.
And don’t get discouraged if your child loves something one day and refuses to touch it the next. Although frustrating, it’s perfectly normal. Simply switch your focus to a different healthy food instead.
Here are our top tips for getting your family to eat healthier without the nightly battles at the dinner table.
1. Add an Extra Serving of Fruit or Veggies to Your Meals
Adding more fruits and veggies to your meals is an easy way to get your family to eat healthier. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber for digestive health. Try adding one extra serving to each meal and you’ll notice that you feel fuller longer, too. It will also help train your taste buds to crave fewer junk foods.
If your kids aren’t big on certain veggies, that’s ok! Don’t fight it! Try a different veggie the next time or offer fresh fruit like melon or strawberries on the side with dinner.
2. Shop Local
For most of us, food comes from the grocery store and we just don’t give it much thought beyond that. Many people don’t realize that the food found in conventional grocery stores was often grown in another country and treated with chemicals to keep it fresh for an extended period of time.
Locally grown produce is usually healthier and tastes better than conventionally grown produce because it’s much fresher. It’s also better for the environment since it doesn’t require excess fuel and packaging to get it to market.
Thanks to Bowery’s vertical farming system and other advancements in agriculture, locally grown food is becoming more readily available, even in urban environments. Check out local farmer’s markets, co-ops, and specialty food stores to see what’s available in your area.
3. Plan Ahead
A little advanced planning makes it so much easier to put healthy meals on the table. Take a few minutes each week to plan meals and snacks so you aren’t stuck for ideas after a long day at work. Make out your shopping list from that plan and get everything you need in one trip or use a grocery delivery service to keep things really simple.
When you’re exhausted from a long day at work, the last thing you want to do is stop at the grocery store on your way. Ordering a pizza is going to be much more tempting. But if you’ve got your meal planned out and all the ingredients ready to go, you can prepare healthy meals in a snap.
4. Don’t Bring Junk Food into Your Kitchen
It’s pretty normal for kids to swarm the kitchen looking for a snack when they come in from school. They don’t care if it’s healthy, they just want food. If they can quickly scarf down a bag of chips or some cookies out of the pantry, then that’s what they’re going to do.
But what if there were no chips or cookies? What if the kitchen was stocked with fresh fruit, whole grain crackers, and cheese slices? They’re not going to go hungry. If their only choices are healthy snacks instead of sodas and chips, they will eat those instead.
5.Stock Your Fridge for Healthy Eating
This one ties right in with the previous tip, and it will get the entire household eating healthier. The simple fact is all of us are guilty of eating what’s easy and convenient. Loading up your fridge with healthy foods you can all grab and go is an easy way to get everyone eating healthier.
Stock your fridge with cut-up veggies, hardboiled eggs, premade salads, yogurt, sliced turkey, and cheese sticks. Load up those produce drawers with oranges, apples, and strawberries. Keep cold water and in the fridge to drink instead of sugar-laden soda and juice.
6. Treats vs Snacks
There’s nothing wrong with snacking during the day. In fact, healthy snacks give you energy during the day and reduce cravings for junk food.
On the other hand, treats are foods that are high in sugar and have very little nutritional value. They do nothing to fuel your body.
Teaching your family the difference between snacks and treats is super important. Things that you snack on during the day should be healthy. Treats are ok once in a while or on special occasions, not every day.
7. Teach by Example
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that kids will mimic the adults around them. Make meals a family time where you all sit down together for a healthy meal. Not only does that give you time to connect as a family, but it also gives you the opportunity to set a good example for your kids.
Talk to them about the foods you’re eating and why they’re healthy. If the dish has a family history or cultural significance, tell them about it. This is the perfect time to educate your kids about food and where it comes from.
When your kids see you eating healthy meals, they’ll learn that healthy eating is the norm. Don’t rush through the meal either. You might not be able to take your time at every meal but try to linger over dinner as a family at least two or three times a week. Getting them to slow down at meals will also get them to try more foods as you all talk and enjoy each other’s company.
One Final Tip
No matter what you do, there will be foods your child refuses to eat. Whatever you do, don’t prepare special meals or foods just for him. Instead, point out the foods on his plate that you know he likes. Maybe there’s fresh fruit on the side or yummy carrots in the salad.
Eating just a little bit at dinner sometimes won’t hurt him. But giving in and preparing special foods just for him will keep him from trying new foods. If he completely refuses to eat what’s on his plate, don’t force it.
Learning to enjoy healthy foods’ ongoing process for children and adults. By following the tips in this article, you are creating healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.