I’m always getting asked how I get my kids to eat the healthy dishes that I make. And while sometimes it can be difficult, as a lover of recipe development and cooking for my family in general, I believe it’s well worth the effort.
But don’t think that my healthy-eating endeavors aren’t met with their own challenges like most other parents. Feeding toddlers is a messy, high-strung business, even for someone like me who enjoys cooking and growing food. That being said, I’ve met my fair share of toddlers who won’t touch half of the stuff that my kids eat.
Why is that? I think there’s an underlying consistency to it all that has been key in my kids’ growing appreciation for fresh food and for trying new things. (This isn’t to say that they don’t still fling food at me and refuse to eat much of anything some days!) While I don’t feign to be an expert on much of anything, I do have a few years of experience in feeding my kids healthy food and a couple of decades or so in creating food to please and nourish those whom I hold dear.
Anyone can do what we do in our home — just start by making small changes. And while there will still be occasional days where pizza and the drive-thru reign supreme, you’ll see that the more consistent you are, the easier it will become. Click through for tips on how we manage to raise healthy eaters and get our kids to eat more than ketchup sandwiches. (Although I fully endorse said condiment as a dipper when need be. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.)
10 Tips for Raising Healthy Eaters 1 of 11
It's not always pretty ... but we're getting there. Check out these tips for less flinging and fussing and more healthy eating! (Although we still have our days.)
Get Them Involved in Meal-Planning 2 of 11
Right now as I type, we're camping for a whole week with the little ones. It took a lot of organizing and packing but we're fully stocked for healthy breakfasts, snacks, lunches, and dinners. During the couple of days leading up to our adventure, my eldest (3) was quite curious about all the commotion involved with food-packing. He even took part in meal-planning and voiced some of his own ideas of what we should make. Getting your kids involved this way actually works and helps build up some excitement!
Always Have Healthy Snack Options Available 3 of 11
No matter where we go or what we're doing, I have a couple of their favorite snacks ready for munching. Right now they are both loving grapes. They could eat them all day and night; grapes are apparently the best food ever made, didn't you know?!
Use Ketchup as Bribery 4 of 11
Now I probably shouldn't be promoting ketchup as a food group, but I feel okay about it since we buy the organic stuff with way less sugar. (Just sayin'.) I feel no qualms about bribing my kids with ketchup in order to get them to eat something they are turning their noses up at. This is something I was so against not too long ago. Oh, how the times have changed! Keep in mind, that while I'm neutral about it in general, we don't bust it out for every meal. No pancake dipping in ketchup allowed. Yet.
Let Them Grow and Pick Their Own Food 5 of 11
Involving your kids here is key. There's just something about growing your own food or going to pick seasonal goodies with your little ones that really sparks their interest in eating fresh and healthy stuff.
Bake Them Healthy Treats 6 of 11
Rather than cutting out baked goods entirely (because YEAH RIGHT, what kind of evil, miserable notion is that?), why not try your hand at baking cookies and muffins with less sugar or with sugar substitutes? I favor fruit purees when it works with the recipe or coconut sugar and maple syrup as substitutes.
Let Them Help in the Kitchen 7 of 11
Yes, it will be messy, but it will get less so the more and more you do it with them. This is one of the biggest ways we've gotten our toddlers interested in food in general.
Make It Fun 8 of 11
A few simple ingredients can really turn a boring meal into something magical for your little ones during holidays and other occasions. This kind of thing goes over like gangbusters in our house. I win all the mommy prizes when I pull out the big guns. Just ask the bunny.
Take Them Shopping with You 9 of 11
Engage them in conversations about the names and types and colors of food. Sing songs about it. Bonus: When they pass out — take a picture (because C U T E!) and wish for a brief second that they stay that little forever.
Get on the Smoothie Train 10 of 11
This is one of the best ways to get greens into your kids — especially in the morning! Vegetables don't have to be just a dinner or supper-time affair. I always keep a big bin of washed, organic baby spinach and chopped kale in the fridge ready to go for quick blending in the mornings. Coconut water is a favorite base we use and berries are always a popular accompaniment.
Rewards 11 of 11
I also fully support rewarding good eating habits with a treat now and then. One of our favorites is going to our local beach-front ice-cream stand and grabbing a couple of kiddie cones.
Do you have some simple tips on how to raise healthy eaters? Your own funny meal-time stories to tell? Share them at Happy Family’s Facebook page for a chance to win $20,000!
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Via her humble beginnings, mastering in general mayhem: le petit rêve