You've tried every trick in the book, but no matter what you do, it just seems like your child refuses to eat anything healthy. Dealing with a picky eater can be tough, and a recent study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past three decades, so there is definitely a reason to be concerned about your child's health. One important thing to remember is that eating habits are not intuitive; they are learned behaviors that can be adjusted with a little bit of practice. Below are six simple but effective ways to get your child to make healthy eating choices.
1. Decrease the amount of junk foods on-hand.
If your goal is to get your kids to eat healthier, it may not be the best idea to load up on all kinds of junk foods and unhealthy snacks when you go to the store. Just having these types of foods around the house can invite bad eating habits. More often than not, your child will go the path of least resistance, so if they see a snack cake and an apple right beside each other, most kids will choose the snack cake. When you have fewer junk foods available for them to eat, they'll have to choose a healthy snack instead.
2. Involve your kids in the food preparation process.
In practically every arena of life, involvement creates commitment. If you involve your child in the ingredient selection and preparation process, they'll be more interested in eating what they contributed to creating.
Armed with a healthy recipe, you can go to the store or farmer's market with your child and have them pick out the produce. If they're old enough to safely help with food preparation, get them to slice vegetables, toss salad or mix other ingredients together. The very fact that they had a part to play in the creation of the meal will make it more attractive to them.
3. Explain the benefits of healthy foods.
There's an old saying in the sales world that you should "Sell the benefits, not the features." Take time to explain to your child what a particular food does to benefit your body, and they may be more inclined to eat it. Let them know that carrots contain Vitamin A which helps to keep their eyes healthy, or that oranges contain Vitamin C, which will help their body fight off sicknesses. Most kids think in a surprisingly pragmatic manner, so focusing on explaining the benefits of healthy foods will more than likely make perfect sense to them, and will encourage them to eat healthier.
4. Moderation is key.
As with most things in life, moderation is the key. While it may seem to make sense to completely swear off any and all unhealthy junk foods, you run the risk of putting them in the "forbidden" category, which carries a certain appeal to the young mind.
Explain to your kids the difference between foods that you can eat sometimes, and foods that you can eat all the time. For example, there's nothing wrong with treating your kid to an ice cream sundae on a fun family outing, but if they're eating a sundae every day of the week, that's a problem. On the other hand, apples are a fantastic snack that your child can eat every day with no negative health repercussions whatsoever. Balancing the indulgent foods with a solid amount of healthy food choices will help your kids view their eating habits from a sound perspective.
5. Dip it!
Faced with a plate of raw vegetables to eat, most kids will simply turn their head or screw up their face in disgust. Try adding some type of dip to make it a little more interesting. For example, if you're trying to get your kid to eat baby carrots, serve a ranch-type salad dressing on the side, or a flavored hummus. Dips will often make it more fun for kids to eat veggies they'd otherwise pass up.
6. And add fiber!
Fiber is one of the most important elements of the human diet, because it keeps the digestive system healthy. Since 90 percent of all diseases start in the colon, it's extremely important to make sure your child's daily fiber intake is up to par. Breakfast is one of the easiest times to sneak fiber into your child's diet by way of high-fiber cereals, oatmeal, whole-grain pancakes or high-fiber muffins. You can also add a tasteless fiber supplement such as Benefiber to your child's meals or drinks; this is a great way to increase the fiber content of their food without altering the taste.