One question that I get asked all the time is about how to get kids to eat healthier food. Children can be picky little things and it is very challenging at times for many families. With my own children it is a work in progress, that is for sure, they by no means automatically go for the healthy options if they are left to their own devices.
If you want to skip my story and just read my tips, head to the bottom of the post.
How I created my own picky eater!
I had my oldest child, Levi when I was only 22 years old and at that time my own diet was very processed. I thought I was being healthy mind you. At that point in time which is now 14 years ago, I was either doing Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig’s, both of which included foods that are highly processed. I would heat my microwave weight loss dinner at night and I would give Levi chicken nuggets, baby red sausages or something easy like that. If he cried I would give him biscuits or little bags of chips. Honestly, I didn’t know any better. It actually never occurred to me that what I was doing was so unhealthy or that I was making a large rod for my own back. I have learnt a lot since then!
By the time Levi was four and the next baby had arrived I realised that I had a problem. Levi would not eat anything that resembled real food or healthy food. I tried everything… encouraging him, sending him to bed hungry, do the hide vegetables in the meatballs trick, you name it I tried it, but he would not have a bar of it. My Aunty even took him for a week, because she must have thought it was my parenting or methods and that she would be able to break his bad habits. She ended up handing him back to me and told me how stubborn he was!
My second and third children, Riley and Mackenzie have been much easier in regards to their food and I put it down to, that from being babies they have always had vegetables, fruit and meat on their plates. Since they were born we have always eaten as a family at the table and they have had to eat what is on their plate, there have been no special kids dinners for them like I made for Levi. That is not to say it is easy all the time, but nowhere near the challenge Levi has been.
So what I have done to get my kids to eat healthy food?
There is not one single thing that we have done to get the kids to eat healthy food. It has been many things as listed at the end of this post, consistently and over a long period of time
For the past 7 years or so I have been fairly strict about ‘eating what you are given’. Over the years Levi has many times gone to bed without eating because he has refused, and that is tough because as a mum you get the guilt’s. Don’t you love it how children have that affect on you! It has been a very long work in progress but we have got to a good place with him. Levi will actually try things now where as in the past he would refuse to even try something. He will eat dinner with veggies and meat, not always with enthusiasm and gusto, but he will.
We have been quite proactive introducing the kids to different foods and cuisines such as picture above. When we travel we tell them that they are only allowed food from that place and not typical western food, this has helped to broaden the kids food horizon’s. As Levi has become older he sees his mates eating different foods and is happy to eat them too.
Also in the last year or so I have noticed that he is hungry because he is growing so much, so he has to eat what I give him or he literally will starve. Plus since doing Real Food Pledge there have been many changes in our household around food, so of course that has helped too because we just don’t have processed food in the house as we used to. With encouragement the other two kids are great eaters, but of course if they are let loose they will go for the junk food every time, they are kids, right.
Every child is different that is for sure! If you have got little one that loves veggies and fruit that is wonderful. If you have got kids similar to Levi either because of your own doing such as my story or just because they are picky no matter what you do, then it can be a challenge and meal times can be a chore for the whole family.
Over the years these are some of the things that I have done with consistency that I have found to be helpful to encourage the kids to enjoy healthy food.
Here are a few tips that have worked for me with my kids.
- Don’t buy junk food then they can’t eat it. That is pretty simple.
- Put everything on their plate even if you know they won’t eat it & encourage them to try a bit.
- Let them help you in the kitchen. This works for my daughter every time, she loves to eat what we have cooked together.
- Make healthy taco’s or burgers and put all the ingredients on the table so that they can build their own dinner.
- Hide grated veggies inside mince, meatballs, meat loaf, stews and cottage pie.
- Make sure that they are not filling up on junk after school so that they don’t want dinner.
- Let the kids pick some of the meals that you have during the week.
- If you put healthy food in their lunch box they will eat healthy food. We make sure that the kids always have 2 fruit in their lunch boxes as well as things like home-made healthy muffins or banana bread, healthy wraps and home-made sushi.
- Teach them how to cook on the BBQ. They love this and then they can actually help out when they get bigger which is a bonus.
- Lead by example. If they see you eating healthy, they will too…. eventually!
- Make healthy smoothies for them which include vegetables.
- Make healthy treats, mine love bliss balls, they call them chocolate balls.
- Buy a pop corn machine, these are great. My kids eat freshly popped pop corn as a snack rather than packets of chippies.
- Put food on skewers. My kids love eating food like this and they enjoy making the skewers too. You can put veggies, meats or fruit on skewers.
- Let the kids help you to choose ingredients or food at the markets because they take pride in what they choose and are more likely to eat it.
- Don’t get stressed. Over the years I spent way to much time stressing and in hind sight it wasn’t helpful to me or to Levi.
- Lastly, stick with it! You will have victories over time.