Moms! This is one of the topics I get asked about the MOST. How can we help our kids learn to make better food choices and to eat more balanced meals?
We talk about this a lot in my online fitness challenge groups. The struggle is real!! When did kids get to have so much of a say in what the family is eating?? (I mean, they don’t even do the grocery shopping). When did “kid food” become its own category??? How did we get here?
Think back to when you were a kid. You mom would have laughed you right out of the room if you had the guts to mention that you preferred chicken nuggets over the family casserole she had prepared. In my house, there was one dinner on the table each night and that is what we ate.
Moms today are tired. Make that Tired– capital T for sure!! We work hard at work and at home, we volunteer, we try so hard to do it all…… which leads to deciding to pick our battles and sometimes give in to our kids to avoid a fight.
I am all for the pick your battles parenting style— but not about food! It is too important to start early teaching your kids about the nutrients in food and how they matter to our health, mental health, and overall energy levels and well being.
I am going to give you some tough love on this topic moms and will warn you that I have LITERALLY heard it all— all of the reasons why Johnny can’t eat this, and Julie can’t eat that. These tips are SUREFIRE ways to improve how your family is eating and they start with YOU! None of my tips involve force feeding kids or having long, drawn out power struggles at the table. None of these tips will cost you extra money, and some of these tips may just settle the dinnertime whining after all.
Ready to work on changing the eating habits at YOUR dinner table?? Here we go. Here are my TOP 5 Tips to encourage kids to eat healthier meals:
Top 5 Tips to Encourage Kids to eat Healthier Meals
- MODELING: You are the best role model for your kids! They are watching everything you do . Are you modeling making healthy choices? Did you pack lunch for the travel swim meet or tell the kids you would hit the drive through? Did you order a salad with your meal or get the french fries? Sometimes even small choices that you make towards eating nutrient dense foods can be a big signal to your child that this is important to you!
Fact: Kids will do what you do, not what you say
2. Get your kids involved in cooking or preparing the meal.
Kids love to help in the kitchen! Especially if they can feel empowered to use the big kitchen tools (safely of course!). Kids in America are so sheltered from using kitchen tools due to mom’s fears of severed fingers! Get your child a kid-safe version of your favorite kitchen tools and let them rip. When kids get involved in making the food, they are much more likely to taste and enjoy it! Plus, it builds responsibility and self efficacy when kids contribute to the family through meaningful chores.
3. Find healthier versions of your family’s favorite meals.
The internet is your friend. Pinterest is your friend. There are likely 624 versions of kid- friendly-but-much-healthier chicken nuggets. Seriously! Get creative. Get an air fryer. Get nuggeting.
Pizza, burgers, french fries— all of these “kid foods” can be made in cleaned up and much healthier versions at home. And besides saving TONS of calories and saturated fats, you are going to save some major $$$ too!! Cooking at home is so much cheaper than eating out. For real!
We even make cleaner ice cream and desserts too! The recipes out there are real and delicious— you just have to be willing to try something new.
4. Don’t change it all at once!
Just like when you tried the Atkins diet, or Keto or some other fad diet. When you change everything all at one time, it is so much harder to stick with the changes! Kids are the same way. No one likes change. No one. So do it gradually. Pick one meal that you can start with and start by changing one thing. For example: dinners— change up a side dish. Instead of buying that powdered mac and cheese in a box, or a box of anything for that matter, work on finding a better version. Start with something you KNOW your kids already like to ease them in to these changes. Get them to buy in by talking about your reasons for wanting them to eat well. All of our kids play sports or do activities– talk about how eating well can help them improve their sports performance, or have more energy for after school play practice.
5. Drop the excuses and the guilt.
YOU BUY THE FOOD! You pack the food! You can make changes without the guilt!
When you make excuses for your child, you enable them to continue to feel entitled to have whatever foods they wish to eat, whenever they wish to eat them. When you buy the junk food and pack it in their lunch, you are saying: I need to keep you happy at all costs– even if that means your health. When you feel guilty for asking your kids to work on eating well, you are further sending the message that eating well is hard, and they shouldn’t really have to do it.
It’s all in how YOU present it! Work to change your mindset about food in general and your family’s habits before you start to ask your kids to do the same thing.
Want to learn more about healthy eating for the whole family? Message me for details on getting started at firstname.lastname@example.org.