For some families, dinner time can be the source of major battles in the parent homefront. Picky eaters will make healthy eating especially difficult, and unfortunately, moms resort to easy, fried junk for the sake of sanity. However, we’ve put together a series of fun and easy tips to teach kids to eat healthy and have fun in the process:
1. Navigating the supermarket
This tip is more for moms and dads when its time to go shopping. It’s easy to be tempted to go for the ready-made stuff, but with this simple trick, you’ll be back on the healthy track in no time. Try to stick to the outer aisles at the grocery store. As a general rule, the healthiest options for your growing child are fresh, whole foods that haven’t been processed. Dairy, fresh produce, and natural foods are usually found in the outer aisles of the store. The middle aisles are filled with snacks, potato chips, cakes, candy, etc. If your child is shopping with you, avoiding these aisles altogether will keep him from seeing these items – and trying to convince you to add them to the cart. Teach your pre-kindergartener what healthy meals and snacks are (bonus points for parents who add a fruit and vegetable at each meal and one at snack time).
2. Taste the rainbow
No, we don’t mean with sugar. Try challenging your child to eat a rainbow a week with fresh fruits and veggies. Throughout the week, make sure all colors have been seen on her plate and draw up a chart to document and reward what she eats. For example, blue for blueberries, orange for sweet potatoes, and red for strawberries.
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3. Healthy Pizza is always fun!
Have a family pizza night and make your own pies. Let your child participate in putting colorful toppings on. Start with whole wheat dough, (or whole-wheat English muffins for individual pizzas) tomato sauce (preferably low sodium), different kinds of vegetables, and low-fat cheese. It’s a healthy and fun way to get a range of food groups.
4. Geat creative and make meals and snacks fun.
Your younger child will be interested in creative healthy snacks. For example, make “ants on a log” by placing peanut butter, or any other nut butter, on celery sticks and let your child add raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruits to be the ants.
5. Learning while we eat.
Use foods to reinforce new math concept for your preschooler, such as colors. Walk through the store and point out different items that are red, green, and yellow. At the end of the trip, have your child pick one of those color items to try something new. This will reinforce skills while increasing her interest in new foods. You can also practice counting and have fun tastes tests at home to explain the use of the senses.
6. Mix it up with the presentation.
Try presenting your child’s food in different shapes and presentations. Sometimes a new visual arrangement can get your child more interested in a food group. For example, whole carrots, diced carrots or shredded carrots all offer different visuals, but if your child likes to eat one or the other, hey! he or she is still eating carrots.