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Getting your kids to eat healthily can seem like a struggle. In fact, many would argue it’s one of those universal parts of parenthood. We all want our children to learn habits that will help them live happy and healthy lives. However, introducing and sticking to a healthy diet doesn’t have to be a chore and can even be helpful if you could stand to eat a bit healthier.
The key to a lifelong healthy diet is to start young. Remember that junk foods are often designed to overwhelm our taste buds and brains in a way that makes us crave more. So it’s easier to stick and add to a healthy diet than it is to try to change a diet that’s already become less than healthy. Many parents find it easier to skip “kiddie” foods such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese, instead, giving their children appropriate portions of the adults’ healthy diet.
Give Them Options
Of course, everyone has different preferences. You might like broccoli, and your child might find the vegetable horrific. It’s important to give them a healthy fallback option. It’s okay to let your tot reach for a delicious and nutritious orange if they’re really not interested in tonight’s vegetable option. Providing options such as whole-grain bread or fruit are also important when introducing new foods, which brings us to our next point.
Try One New Thing As a Time
If you’ve ever changed as an adult, you know it’s typically easier to make small changes. The same goes when you want to introduce your kids to a healthy diet. It can overwhelm them if you present them with a plate without a single familiar option. Your best chances of success are to include some tried-and-true options with the new food to avoid too much change at once.
Keep Mealtime Enjoyable
It’s much easier to introduce healthy foods to your child’s diet if meals are enjoyable. Perhaps you gather around the family table to talk about your day and crack jokes to ensure meals are fun. This also helps create a routine. While you may not make every meal leisurely, it’s easier to encourage healthier habits and introduce new food when meals are relaxed and planned.
One way that parents can unintentionally make meals uncomfortable is by demanding that kids “clean their plate.” Children have smaller stomachs, and you can contribute to bad habits by forcing them to eat past “full.” In fact, it’s better to start with small servings and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry. Furthermore, make sure to give your children enough time to eat, especially as they’re first learning to feed themselves.
Provide Healthy Snacks Throughout the Day
While your kids may not eat much at a time, they may have fast metabolisms that require snacking throughout the day. If you keep healthy snacks on hand, you can ensure that your children get the nutrition they need throughout the day. Unfortunately, many parents are great at having snacks at home but forget to include them when on the road, so they’re forced to make less healthy choices because there’s no other option. Lack of planning is one reason why we consume so much fast food. However, you can easily combat it by keeping nonperishable snacks such as nuts or granola bars in the car or your purse.
Get Kids Involved
An excellent way to provide your children with practical skills that will help them become self-sufficient adults is to get them involved. Get feedback when making your meal plan to empower your child and get them accustomed to making thoughtful decisions in the future. Searching for and trying those new recipes, whether they’re healthy takes on comfort food or exciting new meals such as wild salmon recipes, with your little ones can be a fun activity. While you get the ultimate say on which fillets you want when buying fresh fish, kids can help pick produce and other sides to go along with it.
Of course, you must keep safety in mind when preparing food. Still, kids can do more than you might realize, including unpacking your wild salmon delivery, rinsing food, adding it to serving or baking dishes, pressing buttons, and setting the table. Sure, it may take a little longer than doing it yourself, but you get to bond and instill knowledge while getting your kid excited about food in general and healthy food in particular. These routines can also help you get in the mindset for your pleasant meal! And as your kids grow older, they can take over more of the mealtime duties, allowing you to rest a bit.
Don’t Forget Dessert
For example, you can make chocolate pudding from avocado or “ice cream” from pureed, frozen bananas. When kids understand that eating healthy can be delicious or even a treat they can look forward to, they’re less likely to want junk food and develop unhealthy habits. You might even have a “cheat day” where you skip the main course and go straight for dessert. When it’s healthy, there’s no reason to feel guilty about it!