Monday, August 10, 2009
Most children do not want to hear the word “healthy,” because it frightens them and they automatically believe it is, in fact, “yucky.” There are plenty of cookbooks showing how to trick kids into eating a healthier, more balanced diet. Sometimes this works, but wouldn’t you like to be honest with your kids?
We try and replace words like “healthy” with phrases like “it will make you stronger, smarter, faster,”…and sometimes that works. But more times than not, it doesn’t.
Sometimes the goal is not to trick them, but get kids to understand, and like, the food they eat. There are many ways to accomplish this, but a big difference is starting EARLY with your child. Like, 1 year old early. But it’s never too late to work on this!
When kids are babies, and eating jars of baby food, they eat vegetables, fruits, meats, etc. Convenient, yes, because you pop the jar open, and there is the healthy food. But somewhere between the healthy baby food and the grown child is a toddler who screams at the slightest healthy thing on their plate.
Why is that? Do kids just develop a dislike for these foods?
A healthy and diverse diet is a must for kids. Not only is it important for small growing bodies to have proper nutrition, but you might be saved a headache or two when your little one won’t eat anything on the menu of a restaurant you really, really like.
‘Cause we don’t cook at home all the time, do we? And I know you’re tired of ordering a ‘special dish’ for your little one.
First things first, never expect your child to eat something you wouldn’t eat, or don’t, on a regular basis. If healthy and diverse food options are eaten by the whole family, monkey see will monkey do!
It is important, though, to be honest with your kids. Tricking them may work, but why resort to trickery when you can accomplish a healthier diet now, and more importantly later, if you just help your kids develop good eating habits overall?
If your kids never knew they ate brussel sprouts, how will they know to eat them later in life?
One of the best ways to encourage your child to eat different foods is to include them in the preparation. We all like to bake cupcakes with the kids, or make Rice Crispy squares, or have the kids help lick the bowl when you make a cake.
But why save the shared cooking for just the sweets and special occasions?
Kids love to be involved. Sorting carrots by size, helping wash a potato or two, color coordinating the salad…there is much fun to be had making dinner! And plenty of work to go around. Fun work. Smiley face work. Gold stars on the fridge for helping work. Throw a tiny chef hat on your child, and away you go!
Seriously, they love the hat. Easy to make too.
Kids like to touch, and taste, and preparing the food in the kitchen together is a perfect opportunity for your child to touch and taste away while everything comes together.
My favorite equation is: kitchen = bonding + quality time. There is nothing more fulfilling for a parent then to see the laughter of their children, and looking at them enjoy those little, special moments. You can achieve that by cooking with your children, and making a broccoli forest where the macaroni cows live near a low-fat ranch river. So the trees can be dipped.
My stepson loves pizza. But for some reason, he doesn’t like mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, or plain baked dough by themselves. Weird. By making dinner together, and really getting your child involved in putting the ingredients together, you give them a chance to taste everything separate, and together. And, like my stepson, they may find that they don’t like the individual ingredients, but together…tasty!
Even though we are adults children can, and do, outsmart us. It happens all the time, and it’s the reason why we have to always be a step ahead to make sure they get all the nutrients they need without being monotonous. Variety is the name of the game. Introduce them to different foods, from different cultures and from different locations. You will not only be exposing them to different foods, but you will also be teaching them how to respect and appreciate other cultures.
And by other cultures I don’t mean the exotic food of Taco Bell. There is no reason whatsoever, except laziness, to have your child eat fast food. Ever. That’s why your child’s diet is soooo important after the days of popping open a jar of baby food is over! No fast food! If you go from popping open the jar to popping open a happy meal, you will lose any chance you get for helping your child to develop healthy eating habits.
A banana is just as fast. Speed racer fast. And a banana won’t lead to a life long relationship with a food-product that will shorten your child’s life, and lead to serious problems such as obesity and diabetes.
When I was a kid, I hated beets. Today, I think there is nothing better that a beet salad with mild goat cheese, lightly dressed with basil vinaigrette. Did I develop a taste for beets, or did I like them as a child, but protested for other reasons? Who knows. What I do know is that if your child really dislikes a food, come back to it again later. Tastes change as your child grows bigger.
This goes for you, too. Give food a second chance! Who knows, you may like it… even love it!