As a mother of two, one of my biggest pleasures in life is feeding my kids nutritious meals. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy! Kids have minds of their own and are not always interested in steamed vegetables and quinoa.
So for all you romantically nutritious mamas out there, here are some good tips and ideas of how you can make your family meals healthier.
Lead by example
Show your kids a good example. Your kids notice everything, especially if you skip the veggies at dinner! You can’t expect your kids to eat what you don’t want to eat yourself. Choose whole wheat bread over white, eat fruit for dessert, and snack on sliced vegetables instead of fatty, processed biscuits or chips. Be positive about trying new healthy foods and don’t forget to get dad onboard too, healthy kids are a team effort.
Eat more homemade foods and get your children used to the taste of real foods. Fast food and restaurant meals are loaded with hidden salt, sugar and fat (the bad kind of fats) and can easily corrupt your junior gourmand’s taste buds. When you cook at home, you control the ingredients that go into your meals, and therefore what your children put into their bodies, so you can choose only the best quality out there.
Have your kids participate in meal preparation. Not only does it teach them vital life skills, it also encourages them to learn about food and how it’s prepared. Children are very proud of their accomplishments, so if they’ve helped make dinner, they are much more likely to eat it! There’s a world of healthy meals out there, but I find simple dishes like mini pizzas loaded with veggies, healthy muffins and fruit salads always work well.
Fruit and veggies all the way!
Incorporate fruits and veggies into everything, and I mean everything — even treats! Smoothies are a great way to get kids to drink fruit and vegetables, as a handful of spinach or kale is hardly detectable in a fruit smoothie. Use strawberries and beets to create a visually interesting pink colour, and use bananas or dates to sweeten it up. You can also grate onions, garlic, carrots and zucchini into tomato sauce and use it for pastas and stews. Soups are another great way to get vegetables into their little tummies — sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin are all favourites amongst kids.
Go grocery shopping together, it’s the easiest way to teach your kids about food, why you choose specific ingredients and why they are good for them! You’d be amazed at how many kids don’t actually know about where food comes from, so think of it as a great opportunity for a little food education too.
Simple but effective, eating together as a family is one of the most powerful ways to encourage good eating habits in youngsters. Turn off the TV, the iPad, the iPhone, the blackberry, and the radio and talk to your kids instead. Children who eat family meals together regularly tend to perform better academically and have better overall nutrition than those that don’t.
Try, try and try again
Don’t give up mama! Disliking a new food is normal, especially when littlies are exposed to a food they haven’t seen before. It can take at least 12 tries before a child will accept a new food. Try offering one new food at a time (they don’t need to be overwhelmed!), or serving something you know you child likes alongside the new food, or even introducing new foods at the beginning of a meal when your child is very hungry. Avoid lecturing or forcing your child to eat.
Don’t reward with food
Hard to do I know, but try not to use food as a reward for good behaviour (it only serves to widen the gap between desirable and undesirable foods). Instead, kiss, hug, read a book and play a game with your young ones as a reward for good behaviour.