If you’ve been following for a while, you’ve probably read my About Me page which outlines why I am back in school at IIN to become your Nutrition Doula. (If not, check it out!) I have so many reasons why I want to support new moms and their babies. And one of these is that healthy mammas generally raise healthy kids.
I’m sure that you’ve seen the statistics and news articles about the declining health overall in this country. In 2017 31% of children are overweight or clinically obese. It seems like parents are fighting a loosing battle against unhealthy eating: millions and millions of marketing dollars are spent convincing our kids they *need* this cereal or that snack and masking the true health effect of these processed-corn-soy-sugars-pretending-to-be-food, we have our OWN struggles with maintaining a healthy diet, and when it come to the end of a long work day, we often lack the willpower to fight with our kids over broccoli. It’s a multifaceted issue and there isn’t a perfect and easy solution.
But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do! Even a few small changes can help you to get your family on board with healthier eating. If you are like me, with very young children, you can help to teach healthy habits now (that will make this battle easier once they are older). It will be well worth the effort, even when you are exhausted from a million diaper changes, middle of the night wake ups, and bottle washes. That’s great news!
If you you have older kids, it’s still not too late to get them on board with healthy eating. The great thing about starting down this road with older kids is that they can follow logic and reason. You can foster an open discussion with them about why we won’t be buying Count Chocoula anymore, vs having to deal with a toddler meltdown.
So here we have my top three Tips for Getting Kids Excited About Vegetables:
Lead By Example
This one is simultaneously the easiest and the hardest action to take. We have been told a thousand times that they are watching and learning from us at every moment. So here it is again: they are watching us. If your kids see you eating junk, telling them to eat veggies will never effect the change. If they see that you eat well, if they hear you talk about how you crave a salad instead of ice cream, if they hear you get excited for the delicious new roasted veggie dish you made for dinner, they will learn. And what’s even better is their natural FOMO will drive them to take a bite of your carrot and hummus snack.
Involve Them With Cooking and Preparing Meals
I know, I know, this sounds like a daunting and impossible task. When it was first suggested to me, I immediately thought “Are you insane? Yeah, let me give my exhausted and overstimulated toddler a knife when we get home. Dinner would never be cooked!” I outright ignored this advise for a while and then made a half-hearted attempt or two to “prove” that the advise was bunk. (How many of us are guilty of something like that, right?) But as my toddler got older and more influenced by what she saw the other kids eating at school, I finally put the effort into making a change here. I found simple tasks that she could do to help with cooking and most of them don’t involve any knives. She pours the lettuce for our salad in a bowl, or dumps the pumpkin seeds or dressing on top. She “mixes” a bowl of chopped veggies with olive oil for roasting. I ask her “What should mommy cut up next?” and follow her instructions. She massages the kale salad (thats what she is doing in the picture) or “paints” veggies with olive oil. You get the idea.
Here’s a fun fact: kids love to eat vegetables that they grew themselves. Every time I drag my daughter out into the garden, she wants to pick everything and eat it all. And of course, whatever it is gets this reaction, “Mommy, I LOVE green beans!” “Mommy, I LOVE peppers!” “Mommy, I LOVE swiss chard!” There are plenty of veggies that are easy to grow outdoors (and my brown thumb is proof of this) so try starting a small plot in your back yard. If you don’t have a lot of room, you can still grow great tomatoes, carrots, and peppers in container pots.
These aren’t the only things you can do to get kids on board with healthy eating, but I think they are the ones that provide the best ROI. You can also help by teaching kids the basics of healthy eating (like why our bodies need vitamins and what we use various nutrients for), reducing or eliminating media sources for food advertising (lets face it, if it needs a commercial, it isn’t good for you), and just outright stop buying unhealthy foods for your home (you’ll all eat less ice cream if you had to go to Cold Stone every time you wanted some). You can even watch some of the better food documentaries with older kids.
What are your favorite tips or tricks to get your kids to choose healthy foods? Share by leaving a comment below!