If your internet search history contains phrases like “how to get my toddler to eat healthy meals,” “best bribes for picky eaters” or “is there a magic spell to make broccoli look and taste like chicken nuggets,” you’re not alone. At some point, all parents tussle with their kids over food. If you’re ready to start taking a different approach to healthy eating, here are three simple tactics you can try at dinner tonight.
Hype Up Healthy Foods Using Terms Your Kids Understand
There’s a reason why an orange-clad woman with flowing green hair called “Beta Carotene” doesn’t fight intergalactic crime alongside Thor, Black Widow and the rest of The Avengers. Kids don’t know what beta carotene is, and they don’t care.
Instead of encouraging your little ones to eat carrots because they’re full of beta carotene and lutein, two powerful antioxidants that are great for their eyes, tell your kids that every time they chow down on a carrot, they’re increasing their night vision. Toddlers can’t grasp the importance of vitamins or minerals, so tout the value of healthy foods using accurate but kid-friendly terms.
Expose Them to Healthy Foods Early and Often
One of the easiest ways to encourage healthy eating is to remove unhealthy temptations. Stock your fridge and cupboards with clean, minimally processed foods. Since preservatives are virtually impossible to avoid in their entirety, do your homework about safe preservatives for babies and kids and practice moderation.
At mealtime, put new foods you want your children to try on the table. If they turn them down, commit to having that food on the table regularly. Eventually, that bowl of beets will go from yucky to “Oh, there’s that bowl of red stuff again.” At the same time, the fact that you and your partner enjoy eating them will boost your little ones’ curiosity enough that they will want to get in on the fun.
That said, it’s important to remember that just as you sincerely loathe cilantro, kids also have foods they simply do not like. Fill in any nutritional gaps with a kid-safe supplement such as Wellements Organic Multivitamin Drops.
Don’t Badmouth Dessert
When you tell your kids that apples are good and cookies are bad, they add that to their mental file labeled “Good foods are boring and bad foods are delicious and sometimes have chocolate chips in them.” Guess which type of food they’re going to crave?
Instead of hyping up dessert as a special, taboo treat, try serving it right alongside dinner. This tells your kids that all foods are equal, and it takes a variety of foods to make a satisfying meal. Will your kids eat the dessert first? Of course, but once the novelty wears off, they’ll likely enjoy a little bit of this and a little bit of that en route to a clean plate.
If suppertime has become a struggle, don’t fret. Trying new foods can be daunting for toddlers who take comfort in familiarity. Turning down your perfectly braised Brussel sprouts is also a convenient way for your kids to test the limits of their power. Keep a cool head and make healthy foods a mainstay at the family table, and before you know it, you’ll hear those seven magic words: “Can I have some more broccoli please?”