It’s usually pretty easy to get a baby to eat their greens. Just blend some fruit and veggies with milk, spoon-feed baby, and off you go! By the time your little one gets to be a toddler (and beyond), sweet cereals, potato chips, and candies look a lot more appetizing than spinach and broccoli.
If you’re struggling to encourage your children to eat healthy foods, try some of the following strategies. You might find that you start eating healthier as well!
1. Plant a Home Garden
Developing a healthy relationship with food starts when you’re young. And what better way to develop a relationship with wholesome, highly nutritious foods than planting a vegetable garden at home? Vegetables like snow peas, carrots, beets, and potatoes can easily be grown in a small backyard and greens will grow in pots on a sunny part of the balcony or patio.
Involve your kids in planting the seedlings (or seeds), watering and weeding them, and harvesting your fresh garden produce together. You’ll be amazed at how motivated they’ll be to try their home-grown vegetables once they’re ready to pick!
2. Visit a Local Farm
Healthy meals include a balance of fresh vegetables and fruits as well as legumes, nuts, seeds, and/or animal products. The fat-soluble vitamins that are abundantly available in fresh dairy, eggs, and organ meats are especially important for preventing dental issues, iron deficiency, and growth problems in children.
To encourage your children to try high-quality animal foods (and to teach your children about the importance of the ethical treatment of animals), take them on an unforgettable trip to your nearest family farm. After milking the cow, collecting the eggs, and seeing how cheese is made, they might even be able to try a sample and see what “farm fresh” really tastes like!
3. Take a Trip Your Local Farmer’s Market
Often, kids are more motivated to try something that they picked out themselves. This is especially true for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Instead of waiting until a colorful box of Fruit Loops captures your child’s attention, take them to a farmer’s market where there are plenty of colors and every choice is nutritious!
In the summertime, some farms offer U-pick opportunities in which you can harvest your produce straight off of the trees. There might not be quite as much variety as a market, but your kids will get to choose the ripest, most delicious fruits for themselves.
4. Cook Delicious Meals Together
Just like growing and harvesting produce, cooking at home involves your children in the process and helps them develop a healthy relationship with food. Begin with something relatively simple like blender recipes and fruit purées and gradually work your way up to three-course meals.
If you need some ideas for healthy cooking, you could attend a virtual cooking class with your children or take turns selecting new meals from a healthy cookbook. As they learn how to follow a recipe and cook a meal without your help, they’ll feel a wonderful sense of mastery and proudly eat the meal they’ve prepared.
5. Combine Healthy Meals with an Active Lifestyle
Eating well and keeping active go hand in hand. When you lead a healthy lifestyle in general, healthier choices tend to follow. After enjoying a delicious breakfast smoothie, get the family out for a jog, walk, or exercise in the park. Once you get home, you should all be ready for a sumptuous feast of scrambled eggs and salmon or oatmeal with yogurt and berries.
When you go out, involve the kids in packing a variety of healthy, high-protein snacks that they can enjoy at the park, at soccer training, and on the go. They’ll feel so much better after eating something wholesome and their energy and mood will be more stable as well.
Eating Healthily is an Adventure — Embrace It!
Wherever your family is at with nutrition, there is always more to learn, more to discover, and new ways to have fun with food. Start small with ideas that are accessible for your family and gradually expand your menu and food-related adventures. Soon, you might find that your children are begging to be the first to pick (and eat) the ripened tomatoes.