In an era of instant gratification and fast foods, it may seem impossible to fit healthier foods into your children’s meals. Particularly since there are so many foods prepared for those “on the go.” Too busy to make breakfast—stop here. No time to fix lunch—eat there. Hectic evening schedule—pop this in the microwave. The problem with most “on the go” meals is that they lack fruits and vegetables. But you can steer your children in a healthy eating direction by getting them to eat at least five fruits and vegetables daily.
Help children remember to eat fruits and vegetables with rhymes. Poems and songs will grab your child’s attention and get them involved in making healthy food choices. Jennifer Fixman’s “Eat Some Fruit,” or “I Will Eat All My Vegetables,” for example, encourages children to eat fruit and vegetables because the foods are good for them.
Give Them Credit
Make a poster and put your child’s name on it. Divide the poster into two columns. Put the name of fruits and vegetables in the first column and leave a space for stars in the second column. Each time your child tries a fruit or vegetable, give them a star. And every time they eat that food give them another star. Suddenly, you will find your child trying new foods just to get the star.
Let Them Help
Children love to help their parents. Why not let them help with the menu? Involving children in meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation empowers them to choose foods wisely. It also allows you to introduce new fruits and vegetables alongside foods your child already loves. During the meal planning phase, for example, let your child pick the fruits to eat and you choose the vegetables to try.
Get Close and Personal
Plant a garden. Take kids to the farmer’s market or visit a farm. Children are more apt to try fruits and veggies when they experience nature at work. They find it fascinating to nurture plants and watch them grow into edible delights. They begin to appreciate the work involved in producing nutritious foods.
Sneak It, Dip It or Cover It Up
When all else fails, get creative. Studies show that children need to try a new food several times before they like it. Use cookie cutters to cut vegetables into your child’s favorite shape. Sneak fruit into a bowl of cereal or make a smoothie. Dip celery and carrots in peanut butter or a yogurt mixture. Cover broccoli and cauliflower with cheese or ranch dressing.
A final note: According to the British Heart Foundation one out of three children is obese. At the very least, obesity can lead to low self-esteem. At its worst, it can cause high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that children who participated in nutrition classes ate more wholesome, healthier meals compared to those who did not. The lesson here is to sow the seeds of 5-a-day eating now to prevent the complications that may come from developing unhealthy eating habits later.