All the unhealthy food we serve up for our kids these days is borderline criminal. At the same time, successfully supporting your child’s healthy eating habits isn’t always a breeze. Here are some tips and tricks on finding healthy foods for kids.
Healthy food you make for your kids doesn’t always get eaten – that we know. Kids drop the broccoli and spinach sides in exchange for prepackaged lunches and dino nuggets – food that is created for kids, but is no way good for kids.
In today’s world of fast food, junk snacks and sugary drinks, how do we teach our kids that a cheeseburger and fries have nothing to do with healthy eating habits? What’s the best approach to getting your kids to eat healthy foods without the dinner table drama? Utopia’s gathered some tips on how to support your child’s healthy eating habits.
Healthy Food for Kids: Train Their Tastebuds
Which foods taste good to us and which don’t is a learned trait. We begin developing tastes for certain foods early on – and we continue to train our taste buds on into adulthood. For you as a responsible parent, the foods you prepare at home for your kids become the building blocks for future healthy eating habits.
If you give your child sweet teas and sugar-filled snacks and drinks (store-bought applesauce, sugar sports drinks and cookies), there’s less of a chance they’ll be drawn towards salty, spicy, or bitter foods – and vice-versa. Reduce the amount of sugar and salt and you’ll make things a lot simpler when it comes to helping your children on the way to adopting healthy eating habits.
Healthy Food for Kids: Be a Role Model
When culinary creativity in your kitchen is limited to heating things up in the microwave or cooking according to packaging instructions, your child is going to have a hard time learning about healthy food and proper eating habits. But eating and preparing healthy food at home isn’t just about sending the right message to your kids. All members of the household benefit from healthy eating habits – yourself included.
Show your kids what “real” healthy food is with home-cooked meals using your own ingredients and your children will learn what healthy eating habits are all about.
Forget Foods Made Especially For Kids
Healthy food for kids doesn’t come shaped like a dinosaur, nor does it feature charismatic cartoon characters plastered on every square inch plastic packaging. “Fruit” joghurts packed with artificial vitamins and sugar additives don’t make the cut either.
Healthy food for kids is food that’s healthy for any one of us: A balanced mixed diet consisting of mainly unprocessed foods and that contains all the necessary natural vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies need, not the artificial additives contained. The only benefits of foods marketed specifically towards children are to the manufacturers – and not your children!
Don’t Cook Extra Food for Kids
There’s nothing wrong with ordering from the kids’ menu at your local restaurant. When you’re at home, however, “kids meals” are strictly off limits. Try to avoid cooking two meals in the evening – that is, one for the kids, and one for adults.
Only this way can you grant your children access to new tastes, flavors and textures. When it comes to what’s on the table, healthy food is for the whole family – and not just for the kids.
Cooking extra food for the kids can also leave you with an overflowing fridge. Reduce food waste by only cooking what you know you and your family can eat!
Take Them Grocery Shopping
It’s true – taking children on a grocery run isn’t as simple as it sounds. Nonetheless, it’s quite important to get used to letting them tag along. Bring your healthy grocery list along with, explain what an apple should look like (no bruises or dents) and let your child put the fruit and veggies into the cart themselves. This is a great opportunity for your kids to learn about healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and how to assess quality.
Utopia’s tip: Plastic-Free Shopping: 3 Easy Tips for Waste Reduction
Let Your Children Help Cook
Do your best to involve your children in preparing meals. Find them a task that suits their age and put them to work! This way, you show your children first-hand how tasty and nutritious meals are made from individual ingredients. Let them peel the potatoes, wash the salad greens, cut the fruit or crack the eggs. Staying busy in the kitchen shows them that healthy food is made by hand and not in the microwave.
Utopia’s tip: Healthy Meal Prep Ideas: Easy Meal Planning Tips
Try Everything Once!
Some people won’t eat anything they’ve never seen before. And some children start complain about food before it even reaches their mouth.
Eat whatever it is they’re refusing to try with enthusiasm and your bravery will rub off. Introduce your own rule that whatever lands on the table has to be tried at least once.
Three spoonfuls and it’s your child’s decision to finish their plate or not. If your child refuses, make it clear that they cannot send their plate back to the kitchen: It’s all or nothing. No exceptions.
Don’t be worried if your child goes the “nothing” route the first time around. Tomorrow he or she is sure to clear their plate in no time. Try not to put too much pressure on them, but don’t get soft either.
Leave Everything on the Table
When it comes to food for kids, nothing’s “off limits.” Instead there are tasty foods and snacks exclusively for special occasions such as sweets, cookies, and lemonade. Snacking in front of the TV has nothing to do with healthy eating habits – neither for kids nor adults. Here it’s also important to set a good example.
Try to establish regularity when it comes to sweets and snacks. “Once a week on Sunday” makes for a good start. You should also feel free to make some exceptions throughout the week. Just make sure the special occasion is justified and the kids know it’s not an everyday thing.
Avoid Sugary Drinks
Beverages your kids drink to quench their thirst should always be calorie-free – and the same goes for adults. Sugar-filled sodas and sports drinks fall under sweets and should be treated as such. Limit these to special occasions, such as an evening out at a restaurant or at a friend’s birthday party.
Water or tea throughout the day does just the trick. Be careful when it comes to juices – these sometimes contain just as much sugar as soft drinks.
You may also enjoy Sugar Substitutes and Natural Sweeteners: What You Should Know.
Healthy Foods for Kids: Nutritious Snacks
After school or a play-date, kids can get mighty hungry. Keep a stash of nutritious and healthy snacks at the ready in the fridge or the pantry for just these moments. Offer them sliced fruit or vegetables, or hand them the whole thing unpeeled – all organic at best.
Do your best to avoid processed foods or foods marketed towards children. This drives the message home that healthy food – including snacks – comes from “real” food, such as apple slices, fresh berries or vegetable chips.
Here are some quick and easy snack food ideas for kids:
- Recipe: Make Your Own Granola Bars, Quickly and Sustainably
- How To Make Banana Chips: A Step-By-Step Guide
- Homemade Applesauce: Easy Sugar-Free Recipe
When it comes to the best food for your kids, an everyday healthy meal consisting of broccoli or any other tasty greens probably won’t always stand up to pizza. However, thinking of broccoli as “miniature trees” and cauliflower as the “clouds,” even the most “evil” veggies aren’t so scary after all.
Get creative and start thinking of your own silly names for vegetables and anything else on your plates!
The more often you warn your child to eat their fruit and vegetables, the more often you’re probably going to hear “no”. Try to keep things positive when it comes to the topic of food and healthy eating habits. It’s best if they connect eating to something positive and not heated discussions about what they should and shouldn’t eat.
Try to remain as neutral as possible and avoid pressuring your children.
There’s Room for 3 Exceptions
On one single sheet of paper, have everybody in the house write down three foods they don’t like and absolutely refuse to eat. Hang it on the fridge.
This gives your child – no matter how old – a say in the matter and shows them that adults don’t eat everything either.
Say your child tries something new, something he or she has been dreading for a while now? Don’t let these small steps in the right direction go unrecognized and give them a pat on the back! This sends the message that trying out new things is good and healthy especially when it comes to food for kids.
This article was translated from German to English by Evan Binford. You can view the original here: Essen für Kinder: 14 trickreiche Wege, es gesund zu gestalten.** Links to retailers are partially affiliate links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org because we get a small portion of the proceeds.