Getting kids to eat healthier is a universal struggle amongst most parents. Kids just looooove the sugary, salty, and greasy goodies of the world. But, who can blame them, they are great right.
However, in a time where childhood obesity is skyrocketing due to an increase in consumption of processed foods and a decrease of physical activity, we as parents must get a handle on this because at the end of the day it truly is our responsibility. (#RealTalk)
I know, businesses and marketers make it tremendously difficult for us to say no to them. The processed and boxed foods are easy, tasty, and have the cutest labels.
But, coming from someone with a marketing background, I know that business and the bottom line can often be the deciding factor on what ends up on the shelves of our grocery stores.
So, to try to help get and keep my son eating healthy, I came up with a few ways make it more of a lifestyle and less of a chore.
1. Get Them Involved (Food Prep & Shopping)
A couple of weeks ago, I went with my son to a kids cooking class mainly to get us both out of the house on a gloomy afternoon. I honestly think I learned more than he did that day.
During the class, the kids prepared strawberry salsa. At first, I was a bit nervous that my son wouldn’t taste the finished product because some of the ingredients. For the life of me, I had tried to get him to eat red and yellow peppers along with strawberries, but after one try he refused to eat them again.
Much to my surprise, he willingly tried it again, and loved them.
My first takeaway from this experience is the power of inclusion and involvement. More often than not, when I prepared meals at home, I did everything. The prep and the cooking. The clean up would occasionally get shared amongst the family.
After that day, I realized I was doing it all wrong.
I started getting my son in the kitchen, putting him in charge of simple food prep on fruits and vegetables that he was unfamiliar with. This included red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, etc. Nothing too crazy. Ideally items that they can find and recognize in salads and in stores easily.
I also tried to make the experience more his by giving him his own kid friendly chef knife and measuring equipment like the ones that can be seen HERE. This made him take ownership in the process and allowed hime to safely copy what I was doing. I highly recommend opting for some of these tools to make the experience more fun.
After this class and our at home cooking sessions I decided to take the whole thing on the road by heading to the supermarket. While shopping, I asked him to point out the fruits and vegetables that we used during our last session. I then asked what he remembered about their taste and whether he would like to buy them again. Most of the time, he would say yes.
However, if he seemed less than enthused, I gave him the “job” of picking out a certain number of new fruits or veggies that he had not tried yet. We agreed that we would use them during our next cooking session and try them out together.
I was shocked how excited he was about the entire process. Whether he liked the taste of the items really didn’t matter so much as him getting involved and being open to try new things.
2. Be Real With Them About The Consequences of Unhealthy Eating
When I decided to start getting serious about health and wellness, I began watching just about any food and nutrition related documentary and/or medical talk or conference that I could get my hands on. More often than not, my son would be around overhearing the cause and effect of bad diet and lifestyle choices.
Some people would not allow their kids to watch some of these movies with them for several reasons.
The biggest is because they undoubtedly make both you and your children realize some of the mistakes you’ve been making with your family’s diet before gaining this knowledge.
At least, this is what I felt when I started watching them with him.
Movies such as FedUp, the Jamie Oliver Ted talk called Teach Every Child About Food, along with his documentary titled Jamie’s Sugar Rush, in addition to my favorite movie What The Health are ones that move both children and adults. After watching these I personally felt upset at myself BUT angry enough to want to make a change.
And to my surprise, so did my son.
It wasn’t until we started our cooking adventures mentioned above that I realized how much he had actually learned while watching these movies with me.
While occasionally it is hard to get him to switch from white to brown rice, it is certainly easier to reason with him as to why he needs to eat it most of the time.
So I HIGHLY recommend watching these and any other food & nutrition videos with your kids to help them start to understand the correlation to diseases such as diabetes, dental problems, and more with unhealthy eating.
And by the way, all of these movies are either available on Netflix or on Youtube for free.
3. Make It A Family Affair
This one is both the easiest and the hardest.
Wanting your kids to eat healthier while you continue to eat your favorite albeit unhealthy comfort foods is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.
Whether you like it or not, you have to be the change you want to see! Better yet, you have to be the change you want your kids to see.
So, to help your kids start see ing healthier foods as more appealing and normal, you have to make them so. Let your kids see you eat foods that are greener, leaner, and even meatless to help change their perception of those meals.
Get the entire family involved by setting nights that will be centered around healthier meals and eat them TOGETHER.
Most importantly, while eating them try to highlight the benefits of making these changes. Talk about ways you can get creative with new ingredients while you are all together. Watch recipe videos using the produce you bought at the store and set days that you will try to make it.
DO NOT start talking negatively about the new food, the taste, the cost, or what you prefer about your old way of eating in front of your kids. This sort of negative reinforcement will debilitate your efforts by making bad associations with the new way of eating. If you must express these things, do so with a fellow adult away from the kids
Trust me, this last point is BIG!!
These are only a few of the tips I have used. I hope they help you with your family. Leave a comment below with any other tips that you may have.
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