Before having my own kids, I had dreams of raising children who loved their organic greens and fruits and wrinkled their noses when offered soda, chocolates and fried food. Ok fine, I basically hoped to have Gwyneth Paltrow’s kids.
Unfortunately, reality set in (and the realization that I am not my girl, Gwyn) and after 6 years of motherhood, I find myself having two kids whose favorite foods are fried chicken, french fries and Kinderbueno. I quickly deduced that of course, this was mostly my fault. I would let them eat junk food “once in a while” and let the lolos and lolas indulge their snacking whims during weekend visits (think chicharon, Coke Zero, fruity Mentos, etc.) I also didn’t serve them veggies during every meal because it was just easier to feed them “yummy food” and have them get their fill of whatever was on the table.
When I started to change my lifestyle into a healthier one about a year ago, I resolved to turn things around. It took time, some frustration and a bit of tears (and I’m not just talking about my kids) but I’m really happy to report that they’ve been consistently eating vegetables with every meal. We’ve also cut down a lot on sugar and processed food. Here’s how we did it:
I walked (ate) the talk.
Children may not listen to everything we say but they copy everything we do. Have you noticed this with your kids? I found it easier convincing them to drink their green juice and eat their veggies when they see me do it all the time.
I get them involved in the cooking process.
My kids and I love watching Master Chef Junior and they ask me to find new recipes to try at home. I usually pick the veggie recipe to cook with them. They’re usually excited to eat what they helped prepare.
I try to make the dishes genuinely delicious.
For a while, I would just mix in steamed broccoli in their rice during every meal. Yuck right? Believe me, that got old pretty fast. Giving them a variety of veggies and fruits to try isn’t only good for their bodies but also helps nurture their “adventurous” sides. Around 30% of the time, Inside-Out-Disgust wins but the more types of healthy things they try, the easier it gets to feed them something new the next time.
However, I know that making gourmet and great tasting veggie dishes 100% of the time is as achievable as becoming Gwyneth’s BFF. So if I’m serving chop suey the third time this week…
I tell the truth.
I was a kid once so I know that steamed broccoli doesn’t taste anything like Chickenjoy. So I try not to say “It’s really yummy!” when I know for a fact that it’s not. I usually say, “Your tongue and brain might not like the taste but your body will love you for it!” I find that they trust me more the next time I introduce a new (suspicious) vegetable.
I make it into a fun juice / popsicle.
Our favorites at home are cold pressed kale/spinach and pineapple juice. Pineapple masks the taste of the greens!
Fresh orange and mango popsicles using our trusty IKEA popsicle makers are always a hit too. I’m experimenting on strawberries and bananas with yogurt next.
We made a rule: no vegetables, no yummy food.
This may sound harsh but if they’re hungry enough, they would eat anything to get to the yummy part. So I make sure to serve the veggies first before anything else. But for this to be effective…
We minimized snacking.
I’ve come to the comfortable conclusion that it’s okay to have feelings of hunger between meals. The French say “Hunger is the best seasoning.” And it’s true. Food tastes better when you’re hungry, and my kids eat more “real” food when they’re hungry, instead on filling up on snacks. Of course, I let them have some fruit after rigorous sports or a dance class. Otherwise, they usually come to the table hungry.
As with anything, consistency is key! I found that taking “weekend breaks” from eating healthy is dangerous and leads to backsliding to old, unhealthy habits.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy? In dire need of more tips!