As parents, we are often making food choices for our children. Our job as protectors and educators of our children means we have to continue to guide our children towards health even when the grocery store, commercials, grandma’s house, and even school lunch programs seem to be against us.
In my household, we tightly limit many foods that are probably normal in most homes, such as bread, sugar, and milk. Meat is usually consumed only once a week. We never have sugary boxed cereal, candy, frozen dinners, or fast food. We also encourage many healthy foods such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, green smoothies, sea vegetables, and fermented foods. We have a very high intake of fruits and vegetables, often eaten raw.
I should mention, that I make dessert often. I make lots of healthy treats full of fruit, nuts, gluten-free grains, and various super foods, all sweetened with dates, honey, or maple syrup. I feel as comfortable with these treats as I do the other foods that I bring into the home so it’s not unusual that we have these treats for dinner. What lucky kids!
Although we have many of the struggles around food, as do most families, overall, I am very proud of what our children eat and their ideas about food. They see healthy food as normal, have developed a taste for many very healthy foods that many children would not touch, and they love the lightly sweetened treats I make for them. Raw kelp, cut fruit and vegetables, and nuts are all favorite snacks for our children.
Here is some of what I have learned to help kids have a great attitude about healthy foods. This advice is not meant to make your kid eat everything you offer to them, but instead, to encourage a positive attitude about healthy foods.
Be Positive – Avoid Power Struggles
Eating is one area that a child will always have control. Ultimately they will always be the one to choose what they eat and what they don’t, so don’t start a battle.
Besides the fact that you can’t win, consider the negative implication you are putting on healthy foods when eating vegetables starts feeling like a punishment. As much as possible, eating should be a happy experience where a child does not have to protect their autonomy from an over imposing parent.
If your child will not try a food when you offer it, be casual about it. When this happens at our home, I make sure I still offer it next time it is made. A child is still forming their likes and dislikes so many preferences can change from meal to meal.
Trust That Kids Will Not Starve Themselves – Don’t Give Into Junk Food
It is easy as a parent to be concerned when it feels like a child has not been eating enough, but be assured that your child will be okay. Do not start offering junk food just to make sure that their belly is full. Hunger is a great motivator to trying new foods, and often that first bite is all that is needed to help a child realize that the food you offered them is actually quite good.
Of course, some common sense is intended here. If a child is really opposed to the choices you offer, it may be time to bring out a healthy choice that you know they like. Fruit or cut up veggies are a great fall back at my house. I try to not make it clear that they are getting an alternative to dinner to avoid the short-order cook syndrome, where every kid requests something different. Waiting an hour or so after dinner on the days I really feel the kids need to eat more, works well for us. This ensures that bellies are full of healthy food and that I minimized the illusion that I will be making two dinners if they did not like the first.
Be Careful With The Use of Dessert
When Dessert becomes an after dinner tradition, the meal becomes less desirable. Kids will have their eyes on the sweets instead of filling their bellies with the healthy food in front of them. Treating dinner as a wonderful treat will teach an attitude of appreciation towards broccoli and beans, not just for cake and cookies.
Dessert need not be ignored. I myself love sweets and am so happy with the wide variety of delicious healthy options available. I am casual about what time of the day we have desserts as long as they are healthy options. My intention is to create a positive attitude around sweets as well as other foods.
Cook With Your Kids
I cook with our kids a lot. They are excited to help me and I’m excited about all the learning and bonding that happens during these times. Turn-taking, math (measuring, counting), reading, following instructions and cooking skills are all learned while we cook together.
Another great benefit is the attachment that the kids get to feel with the food they created. They are more likely to eat the food that they played a part in making. This is also true for gardening with your kids.
I find most raw food recipes very easy to do with kids. Since you are not heating up the food, stove tops, and hot pans are not a concern. Plus they taste great, are always healthy, and are often fast to make.
Check out Raw Chef, Russel James, for a bunch of free raw food recipes. These include raw healthy nacho chips, easy soups, fun vegetable sushi, and more. Scroll to the middle of the page to get the free recipes.
Be A Good Role Model
Eat the way that you want your kids to eat. Model positive attitudes around food. Let your children see you trying new foods, enjoying your vegetables, and making healthy food choices. Be aware of any negativity or lack of self-control that you have around food.
Be Creative – Fun Food Can Really Motivate
This is an area that my husband shines. He makes snacks like the banana snake from a banana, covered with chia and hemp seeds, nut butter and two chocolate chips for eyes. I love how excited our kids become over their healthy breakfast on the days that my husband does this kind of thing.
Have fun with your food preparation and your kids will have fun eating it.
Book Recommendations To Encourage Positive Food Attitude
As a lover of books, a mother, and a children’s book reviewer, I know how the messages the we send to our kids through books can be very meaningful. While we are reading to our kids we have their full attention making this a great time to share with them positive ideas about healthy foods.
Here are 3 books that encourage positive attitudes about healthy foods by Victoria Boutenko:
- I love Greens
- Fruits I Love
- Green Smoothie Magic
How do you encourage positive attitudes towards healthy eating with your kids?
Amy is a writer and a mother of a blended family with three young kids, soon to be four. She has a wide variety of interests including mindful parenting, successful blended families, gardening, health and fitness, recipes, and more… all of which are reflected in her writing.