For many families, dinner time can be a struggle. Kids have a hard time with new foods. Whether it’s because of the smell, color or texture of the food - it’s hard to get kids to eat anything outside of hotdogs, mac and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Creating an environment where your kids can make a healthy choice at meal times is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your child is consuming proper nutrients.
Always try to keep healthy food on hand. Kids will eat whatever is available and easy to grab. Keeping fruit in a bowl on the counter offers easy access for kids to grab a healthy snack. Stock the bowl with apples, bananas or other fruits. Then praise your child or offer a proud smile when your child chooses a healthy snack like fruits, veggies, whole grains or low-fat dairy.
It’s important to do things together as a family, especially when it comes to healthy eating. Try preparing plates in the kitchen together and put the right portion of each item on everyone’s plate instead of offering up a serve-yourself buffet style. Then, sit down together at the table for meals. Research shows kids who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition. If this isn’t a tradition or something you do in your house, then start with one night a week, and work up to three or four days a week.
Don’t become a short-order cook in your own house. This can quickly become a bad habit! Prepare only one meal for everyone. Never make one meal for your kids, and one meal for yourself. Kids will often mimic the actions of their parents and eat what is sitting on their plates.
Try introducing new foods slowly. Kids are new-food-phobic by nature. The trick is to be stealthy with healthy foods at first. For instance, if you’re child doesn’t like milk, try making it into a milkshake or adding cocoa powder. If your kids don’t like vegetables, and what kid does, let them mix their veggies with something on their plate that they like. Mix the peas and carrots with mashed potatoes, or try adding broccoli in with a slice of meat. Later, when you let your child know they are basically eating what they think they don’t like almost on its own, they may be more open to eating it naturally.
When it comes to vegetables, that may be one of the toughest things for your kids to eat. Sometimes they can look odd, smell odd, and come in many different textures depending on how your serve or cook them. Try experimenting with condiments and dips. Kids love dips, especially ranch dressing. Often it can be easier to get your kids to eat their vegetables when you offer dips or condiments like ketchup, hummus, salsa, guacamole and yogurt-based dressings.
Finally, have fun! The more creative the meal is, the greater the chance you have of getting your kids to eat things they normally pick around. Add fruit in your pancakes by making them into smiley faces. Start calling vegetables funny names, like broccoli “baby trees.” Also try making things miniature meals. l ike mini sandwiches or mini celery sticks with peanut butter.
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