by Jennifer Shakeel
The best way to do that is by setting a good example. There is the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do…” but our children like to emulate us. Whether we want to admit it or not, they are more likely to do what they see us doing then they are to do what we tell them to do. With school starting and the current debate going on about health care… now is the time for all of us to step back and re-educate ourselves and our children on healthy eating.
Nutritionists have stated that in order for a child to try a new food they need to see it four or five times, possibly even 10 times. This means that just because the avoided the broccoli at dinner tonight, doesn’t mean that in a week or two they won’t try it if you keep showing it to them at meals. This also means that you shouldn’t take the first, “bluck!” as an “I will never eat this again.” You can also try making a rule, similar to what we have in our home, and that is called the “No Thank You Bite.”
Everyone at the table has to have one bite of everything on their plate. If they don’t try it how will then ever know if they like it? Knowing that kids prefer the sweeter things in life, try introducing them to the sweeter healthy foods such as corn, tomatoes, sweet peas, mandarin oranges, cherries and strawberries. You can also mix these sweeter foods with other healthy foods that may be less appealing such as brussel sprouts and broccoli. Make an apple and brussel sprout side salad… or tomatoes, whole wheat pasta and corn. Get creative and make it fun, give the dishes you create names that kids will think are funny.
You can also let your children help in the process of preparing meals, buying groceries and picking foods, let them come up with their own recipes. I can tell you that my son’s biggest joy in life is telling everyone about the recipes he has created and the great names he has given them… such as “Turds” and “Turds on Toilet Paper.” While the names are, well, disgusting… the recipe is actually pretty impressive and good.
If your kids are apprehensive about trying the healthier foods consider playing food tricks, hide them in the food. This is my favorite thing to do more on my husband then our kids. Chopping veggies and fruits finely and mixing them in their favorite dishes will help. Carrots can be chopped finely and mixed in with your favorite spaghetti sauce and so can spinach and broccoli. If burgers are a favorite in your house, finely chop or puree veggies and mix them into the burger meat when you patty the burgers. Use turkey or ground sirloin as healthier alternatives to hamburger.
Casseroles can also be a fun new dish. Casseroles are fun because you can throw whatever you want in there for a really healthy and tasty meal. Other healthy eating options for kids can include making fruit breads, such as banana and apple. Use real fruit, even if you buy a premixed box, you can still add real fruits to enhance flavor and nutritional value.
The sooner you can start practicing healthy eating habits for the family the better, but know that it is never too late to start. Making healthy eating choices can help the entire family get in shape, trim down and decrease the risk of many diseases.
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!
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