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When I tell people that my kids devour salads, love lentils, and ask for anchovies, they’re shocked.
During the holidays, at family parties and get-togethers with friends, when other parents are worrying what their kids will eat—and if they’ll eat—my husband and I never give it a second thought.
Our kids not only eat just like we do, but they’re little foodies who crave healthy food.
What may surprise you is that we don’t bribe them with dessert, negotiate meals or force them to eat.
They’re not easygoing kids who go with the flow either—it’s actually quite the contrary.
While it’s true that most kids, especially toddlers, are picky eaters, and they have their own food preferences and food aversions, it’s totally possible to raise kids who like to eat healthy.
Here’s how we did it and you can too.
Make homemade baby food
It’s rare that we ask my daughters if they want to try new foods. Rather, they have a natural curiosity and interest in doing so.
One of the reasons I think that’s the case is because I made homemade baby food for them.
Although store-bought baby food is easy and convenient especially when you’re on the go, we can’t expect our kids to prefer real food if we start out by feeding them food that looks and smells anything but.
When you make your own baby food, you control the ingredients and can offer a wide variety of flavors and textures which helps kids develop their own preference for healthy foods.
Stick with it
Parents often tell me how they’ve tried cooking with their kids, serving new vegetables, or making green smoothies, but nothing they did changed their kids’ picky eating habits.
Although there were definitely occasions where we’d offer a new food and my kids were willing to try it immediately, getting them to eat everything took a concerted effort at every meal, every day.
As parents, we always want a quick, easy fix, but a one-time effort isn’t going to transform your kids into foodies overnight.
Whether it’s potty training, getting your kids to sleep through the night or changing an annoying behavior, everything takes time, effort and consistency.
Keep meals interesting
I’ve found that eating the same foods every day has been key for me to lose the baby weight and maintain it.
Although this also makes meal planning easier for my family, I often fell into the same pattern with my kids and I realized there were so many more foods they could try.
So I decided to switch it up a bit.
When I’d bring my kids to the grocery store and they’d spot dragon fruit, star fruit or something they had never tried before, I’d buy it for us all to enjoy at home.
My husband, who also sensed our food rut, would cook new types of fish and vegetables and add new types of spices to our meals.
Although we never forced our kids to eat, we always encouraged them to have a taste of what was being served so they’d have opportunities to figure out which foods they liked and which ones they didn’t.
Cook meals together
Cooking with my kids has proven to be one of the best ways to get them to eat healthy.
Kids want to be just like their parents and my daughters were always excited to learn how to peel and chop produce, mix ingredients, stir on the stovetop and use the oven.
When kids help to prepare meals, they feel empowered and proud and are more likely to eat what’s being served.
If you’re not the greatest home chef or could simply use some pointers, I recommend you take my friend Katie Kimball’s Kids Cook Real Food online video eCourse. Check out her video:
Forget the kids’ table
When we had dinner with our extended family, were invited to a friend’s house, or attended a party or celebration, my kids always ate with the adults, unless of course, the host had a kids’ table set up for them.
I never brought a separate meal for them and we didn’t ask the host to prepare something different. They could eat what was served—or not—but that was the only option.
Don’t order off the kids’ menu
Most kids’ menus at restaurants are all the same: hot dogs, chicken fingers, burgers and fries.
It’s rare that you’ll find salads, green leafy vegetables or roasted salmon, for example.
When we went out to eat, we’d usually order an entree my daughters could split, modify an item such as adding broccoli to pizza, or order appetizers and salads we all could share.