When it comes to your child’s health, you already know he should eat healthy and exercise but getting your child to do so is another story. When it comes to conquering picky eating, it can feel insurmountable, even unrealistic.
In fact, according to a 2011 survey by Abbott, 80 percent of moms say they sometimes feel like they have no control over it and more than 75 percent give in to their kids instead of keep up the struggle.
The good news is that you don’t have to make sweeping changes all at once. There are small changes you can make that will have a big impact on your child’s health now and throughout his life.
1. Make time for breakfast
Mornings are hectic but breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast made up of protein, fiber and healthy fats will give your kid plenty of energy, keep him focused and keep his blood sugar levels steady.
If you find that your kid doesn’t have enough time to eat breakfast in the morning, move his bedtime back or wake him up earlier. To save time in the morning, make egg “muffins” or a frittata ahead of time or put a batch of overnight oats in the refrigerator.
2. Write a grocery shopping list
Every week I take stock of what’s left in the refrigerator and the pantry, think about what I’m going to cook and write a list of what I need to buy.
Without a grocery shopping list, you’re more likely to make impulse buys or forget something, especially if your kids are with you. It can also help to make sure you’ll have enough food for healthy meals and snacks throughout the week, a great thing for your child’s health. In fact, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, using a grocery shopping list is associated with a lower body mass index (BMI) and eating healthy foods, even for people who are overweight or obese.
3. Plan meals
Planning your family’s meals takes time and some thought but it’s one of the best ways to prevent making a last minute trip to grab pizza or the fast food drive-through.
When you plan meals for the week ahead, you’re more likely to eat healthy, balanced meals and you won’t have to give dinner a second thought.
4. Try a new recipe
If you can’t get your child to eat vegetables and try new foods, experimenting with new recipes may do the trick. Trying new recipes can also get you out of a dinner rut.
Bookmark new recipes you find online or save those you find in magazines using the EverNote app.
5. Pour a glass of water
When kids drink plenty of water, it gives them an energy boost, can aid their learning and concentration and prevent constipation.
Instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, energy drinks or juice boxes, buy a re-usable water bottle and encourage your kid to sip on water throughout the day.
6. Purge the packages
Swapping packaged chips, cookies and crackers can take some getting used to, but
most packaged snacks are filled with sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates and lack protein, fiber and vitamins and minerals kids need to grow and develop.
Start small and substitute 2 snacks a week for whole foods. Try celery with a nut or sunflower seed butter or baby carrots or cut up jicama with hummus, for example.
7. Try one new vegetable
Kids are usually averse to eating anything new so when it comes to serving a new vegetable, they’ll probably refuse to take a bite. Although you probably purchase the same vegetables week after week, adding one new vegetable into the mix can help expand your child’s palette.
Empower your child to feel like he has choices by bringing him grocery shopping or to the farmer’s market and letting him choose a new vegetable to try. When you return home, find a healthy and delicious recipe you can prepare together.
8. Read labels
Most of your child’s diet should consist of whole foods, but for pantry staples and the occasional treat, read labels and compare brands.
Avoid foods with a long list of unrecognizable ingredients, those that use “enriched” flour, artificial color dyes (i.e. red 40) or contain added sugar.
9. Get active
Just as you can lay the foundation for a healthy future by teaching your child how to eat healthy, you can teach him that staying active is important too.
Sports and classes are always a good way to get your kid moving, but you also want to be active as a family on a daily basis. Take a walk after dinner, go hiking or bike riding on the weekends or play a game of Twister instead of watching TV at night.
10. Eat more meals at home
Between work schedules, after-school activities and other obligations, it can be tough to get everyone together around the dinner table. Yet eating together at home is important not only because meals at home are usually healthier than restaurant or fast food fare, but children who eat family meals together at least 3 times a week are less likely to be overweight and have disordered eating, a 2011 meta-analysis published in the journal Pediatrics found.
If it seems impossible to get everyone together, consider dropping an activity, asking for help or simply eating dinner later.