A challenge parents often face is preparing meals the entire family will enjoy. Many children are picky eaters, so cooking food that is delicious and nourishing can be difficult. Check out these tips on how to help your children expand their palate and practice healthy eating habits.
Five ways to introduce nutritious food to children.
1. Plan your meals
Taking a little extra time at the beginning of each week to plan out your meals will end up saving you a lot of time and effort. With meal planning, you can ensure that every meal is balanced and healthy. You can also avoid wasting fresh groceries by knowing what you’ll be making ahead of time. According to the EPA, Americans disposed of more than 38 million tons of food waste in 2014. Planning allows you to make the most out of what you’re buying and have total control over the nutritional value of each meal.
2. Involve your child
When grocery shopping for ingredients, let your child help with the process. Ask them what vegetables and fruits they would like for the week. Encouraging your children to help make the decisions will not only teach them about eating healthier, but it will help them learn about responsibility. The more ownership children have of their meals, the more receptive they become. Children who also help tend a small vegetable garden or help plan and cook meals are more likely to feel positive about a variety of foods.
3. Introduce new foods gradually
Slowly replace unhealthy foods with more wholesome options. It may take getting the healthier options in front of your children multiple times before they start to enjoy them. However, according to J.J. Virgin, exposure equals preference. Continuing this process by showing them healthy options along with more familiar ones will aid in turning them into advocates of nourishing foods.
4. Use snack time to introduce healthy foods.
It’s hard to pack all the nutrients a child needs into 3 meals a day. Snack time can help, providing a quick opportunity to round out a child’s daily nutrition. Instead of reaching for a prepackaged bag of chips or crackers, try introducing a handful of blueberries or a spot of low fat yogurt.
5. Don’t pressure them
Added pressure to try healthy options can actually be counterproductive. In a study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, researchers asked children to eat vegetables and drink milk, offering them rewards such as stickers and watching TV if they complied. The results showed that the children expressed dislike for the foods they had been rewarded for eating. Instead of pressuring them, listen to their thoughts and concerns. Work towards turning your children into fans of the food instead of forcing them to eat it.
Cultivating healthy eating habits for your family starts with small steps. With these tips, you can teach your children healthy eating habits and have fun, too.