Eat the types of food you want your children to eat.
Be a model. I know that some people believe children should “Do as I say, not as I do”, but that doesn’t always work. Children learn by watching. They mimic you. The look up to you. They repeat your behaviors (and your words sometimes, yikes, guilty). If you want to see change, you’ll have to be the change first.
Keep healthy options at eye level both in your refrigerator and on your counter tops.
I always keep fresh fruit like diced watermelon, cantaloupe, and berries ready. Next to the berries are yogurts, cheese, sticks, and some veggies too (baby carrots, cucumber, grape tomatoes). When the girls open the fridge, it’s the first thing they see. I also keep Halo oranges, apples, and bananas on the countertop. Easy to reach (much harder to get to than the chocolate in the cabinet, lol).
Let them see you eat junk food.
Teach them that it is okay to eat sweets and chips in moderation. Have some popcorn together while you watch a movie. Share a dessert after dinner. Let them learn that having sweets is perfectly normal. The lesson has to be more about enjoying the “treat” than bingeing on it. You can gain the same satisfaction from a small portion as you do from a large one.
Have simple conversations about food.
In my house, we discuss food in the most basic way possible. “Some foods help us grow to be healthy and strong. Some foods don’t help us in that way. So, we have to mostly eat foods that help us, but it’s okay to sometimes eat foods that don’t”. That’s it. I don’t discuss “good” food versus “bad” food. I don’t want my children associating food with emotions. That brings on a whole other level of problems. The basic rule in our house is that they can choose healthy snacks whenever they are hungry. They can choose one sweet a day (I keep sweet options small). The same applies for juice.
Serve the same food for everyone in the family.
I know this seems hard! But it doesn’t have to be. When I serve dinner, that’s what we are eating. I will not make a separate meal for the kids. But of course, I’m reasonable. If they don’t like steamed broccoli, then I’ll put a different veggie on their plate. For instance, my husband and I will eat something like chicken, sweet potato (or red potato) and steamed broccoli. One of my daughters doesn’t like steamed broccoli, so I serve her some baby carrots instead. And yes, I do have them try foods before they can get away with saying they don’t like it, lol.
Take them shopping with you and let them choose some healthy options.
I honestly hate grocery shopping, lol. But it’s not so bad when I bring the girls with me and let them have a little fun picking some of our food. Giving them some power and input in decision making helps them make better choices altogether. They feel important and know that their job is important also. When we get home, I make it their job to serve whatever they chose at the grocery story. For example: if they chose fruit and whipped cream, they need to wash, cut, and serve the “fruit salad” for the family after dinner.
Let them help with the cooking or preparing.
If we are having salad for dinner, I have the girls get the veggies ready and I let them cut them (with children’s plastic knives). They are also in charge of making our salad dressing (Good Seasons has super simple recipes to follow).
Give them choices.
Its breakfast time: I’ll say something like “I can make you eggs, oatmeal, or a shake”. They choose what they want. They are more inclined to eat what you put in front of them if they had a say in the matter. (FYI a shake for them consists of yogurt, berries, banana, and honey)
Let eating be fun.
I let my girls add food coloring to their food if they want to. Green eggs? Sure! Purple oatmeal? Done! Pink rice? I got you! LMAO…. It looks so gross to me, but that’s not the point. They love it, they eat it. No arguments.
When in doubt, search Pinterest. I have made fruit kabobs, smoothies (with veggies mixed in), and had them eat frozen cherries with whipped cream. We have mashed bananas and added dark chocolate chips and coconut milk to make healthy ice cream. They put food coloring in milk and add in eggs, all in the name of making rainbow French toast!
Eating healthy doesn’t always have to be a battle. If you give your kids a little power to help make decisions, they will feel better about what they are eating. And if worse comes to worst, remember….. they don’t have jobs! You buy the groceries. Any change that they make will have to start with you!