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All parents want their kids to eat healthy, but when it comes to actually making it happen, most are left feeling frustrated, stressed out and exhausted.
Perhaps you’ve tried to make vegetables into fun shapes or works of art.
Or you’ve pureed and snuck them into meals.
I bet you’ve also begged, bribed and negotiated with your kids but all of your efforts fell flat.
Although it can be really frustrating to get your kids to even take a bite, it actually doesn’t have to be.
Here are 6 crazy easy ways to get your kids to eat healthy.
1. Start early
If you have an infant, making homemade baby food and exposing him to a wide variety of flavors and textures is an almost sure-fire way to get him to enjoy eating healthy now and throughout his life.
In fact, studies show that children like and consume foods that are familiar to them and the earlier and more foods they’re exposed to, the healthier their diets will be.
I’m convinced that’s one of the reasons my kids eat foods like lentils and broccoli today because I served them up regularly from the moment they started solids.
2. Give kids choices
Whether it’s a toy, a favorite pair of shoes, or which apps they’re allowed to use, kids love choices and food is no different.
Food choices make kids feel empowered and in control—even when you’re the one calling the shots and deciding which foods to buy and when to serve them.
I’d argue that it’s the lack of choices at meals that makes them such a big power struggle with our kids.
While I’m not suggesting you let your kid decide what he’ll eat for dinner, you can give him plenty of opportunities to make choices you both can live with.
For example, offer broccoli and cabbage and let him pick one or both. Or put out a few types of vegetables for him to choose from and do a make your own pasta or taco night.
3. Go shopping together
Another way to give kids choices is to bring them to the grocery store or the farmer’s market and let them pick out a new vegetable they’d like to try.
When you come back home, wash, prepare and cook it together.
They’ll be more like to eat (or at least try) what’s being served because they had a say and a hand in making it.
4. Get cool gear
Teaching your kids how to cook is an easy way to get your kids to eat healthy.
According to a November 2014 review in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, kids who cooked at home or took cooking classes consumed more fiber-rich foods and fruits and vegetables, were more willing to try new foods, and had an increased confidence in their ability to prepare meals.
What’s more, a May 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found young adults who had cooking skills and felt confident in the kitchen were more likely to be healthy eaters.
One of the best ways to make cooking with your kids fun is to get some cool gear.
5. Make smoothies or juices
I don’t advocate for hiding vegetables in meals, but making green smoothies or juices is a great way to get several servings of fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet and because they’re green, it’s a non-sneaky way to get your kids to eat healthy.
Even better—let your kid choose the types of green vegetables and fruits and let them help you blend it up.
6. Keep it small
When you were a kid, how likely were you to sit down to an entire plate of asparagus—or worse—Brussels sprouts and eagerly eat it up?
I didn’t think so.
Although it’s true that kids don’t eat enough vegetables, it’s unrealistic to expect kids, especially toddlers, to eat an entire portion of a new food, or a food they’ve previously shunned.
Kids need to have the freedom to smell, taste and explore foods without feeling pressured so serve a teaspoon of broccoli florets or a few baby carrots, for example.
Stay consistent and continue to serve small portions at every meal, every day, and eventually your kids may surprise you.