By: Natasha Archary
As parents, we worry about every minute detail when it comes to our kids. Are they too hot? Too cold? Sunscreen, not enough sun, germs, dirt, dust and the list can go on for days. When it comes to eating habits, there may just be no greater war between parent and child as picky eaters tend to test even the most resilient parent.
Don’t believe any of the “advice” from friends and family who mean well either. The first child may not eat everything you give them, the second child isn’t always the picky eater and regardless of the order in which they enter the world, most children have picky eating habits. With the fast food industry being the comforting go-to for most working moms on weeknights, it isn’t easy to fit in the required five servings of fruit and veggies into the little ones’ diets, much less your own.
So how do you get your children to eat more veggies? The simple and practical answer would be to sneak it into their meals but then we risk being judged for tricking our children. When did parenting get so complicated? Granted, it would be better to encourage your children to make healthier choices by themselves. This is where our simple tricks may just come in handy.
Instead of offering your child sugary snacks and drinks from a young age as treats, start including fresh fruit and veggies into their diet from as early as 6 months. Start with pureed fruit and veggies which are simple enough to do at home and this way you control how much of salt and sugar goes into each portion.
Try different combinations of pureed veggies and fruit to give your child a variety of taste explosions and see what works and which is preferred.
As your child gets older, snacks can consist of sliced veggies served with a dip or cream cheese. Most children love anything cheesy so this will go down a treat. Of course, if your child is allergic to dairy products you may substitute the cheese dip with something healthier like hummus or a simple tomato salsa dipping sauce. The point is to give your child options because kids love to decide for themselves.
- HAVE HEALTHY STUFF ON HAND
It’s easy to lose sight of the health wagon when you’re in holiday mode, travelling, running late or just too tired to whip up something homemade. The key is to ensure that you have a good variety of healthy, fresh food stocked. From fresh fruit and veggies, to wholegrains and seeds and nuts which can all be easily combined to make a delicious salad for example.
- LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Kids learn from example not by being told what to do. Parenting 101! It’s therefore important that you set a good example for your children when it comes to eating habits. If your child sees you eating an apple instead of a slab of chocolate, chances are they will want a bite of your apple. Always offer a child any fruit or veggies you are eating and before you know it, your child will ask for more.
- THINK LIFESTYLE NOT DIET
Your child’s eating habits should not be considered a temporary change and you should think about the long term benefits of a lifestyle change instead of a diet. This will ensure that you are always cooking and eating healthily as a family. Limit the takeouts and start small, by incorporating a salad at every meal.
With most children, if you omit sugar from their early years you will note that they automatically reach for a healthier option.
You’re not denying your child a treat by limiting their sugar intake, treats or snacks. Quite the contrary. You’re building a healthier foundation for them to continue with for the rest of their lives. Stick to the changes and in a short space of time you will notice a difference. Consistency is key and as tough as it will be in the beginning it does get easier.