By Bryn Huntpalmer
It’s a familiar 1950s sitcom scene: Mom and Dad sit at the table across from the family’s notoriously picky eater, in a dinnertime showdown that usually involves tears and and ultimately ends in an untouched plate of cold vegetables. It would be an understatement to say that kids don’t always have the healthiest taste in foods. The kitchen doesn’t have to be a battleground though, here are six ways to encourage healthy eating at home.
1. Persistence is Key
Children need to be exposed to a new food an average of 11 times before they will be used to it and willing to try it, so if your child doesn’t immediately grab for the broccoli, it doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t like it and shouldn’t be served it, it may just mean they need more chances to become accustomed to it.
2. Try Something New
If you’ve already used up your tried and true veggies, remember that not everyone has the same tastes, and try something you may not usually cook for yourself. Just because you’re not a fan of asparagus, doesn’t mean your child will feel the same way.
Another way to try something new is a new preparation method. If you’ve done steamed veggies over and over again, look up some new recipes. Did you know that carrots can be glazed and grilled? Kale and broccoli can be coated in garlic and olive oil and baked. Also, various sauces can make veggies more palatable, not just to the kiddos but to the adults as well. Once your child decides they like a certain kind of veggie, you can use it in more recipes and figure out how to incorporate it more into the weekly menu.
3. Blend it up!
Even kids who say they hate veggies and won’t touch fruit will still sometimes eat them in certain forms. Whether blended into yogurt, frozen into fruit pops, chopped into sauce, or made into a smoothie, there are a lot of ways to make fruit and veggies more easily consumable.
You can make a very simple yet healthy fruit smoothie using whatever fruits you know your child will eat and full-fat yogurt. Once they’re used to drinking smoothies, you can start slowly adding in new, unobtrusive ingredients. Carrots blend very well into most smoothies, as do fresh tomatoes.
4. Hide the Healthy
If you keep hearing “I DON’T LIKE THAT!”, try hiding the fruit and veggies and don’t mention their existence to your picky eaters. If you put cooked spinach in a food processor it will be almost imperceptible in spaghetti sauce. In fact, there are entire cookbooks dedicated to recipes that will teach you to hide fruits and veggies in foods your kids will definitely eat, like brownies.
In addition, most kiddos won’t complain about the strawberries on strawberry shortcake, or the banana in a banana split. Adding peanut butter can be an effective way to get a child to try a fruit or veggie, and sometimes cream cheese can work wonders too. Obviously, you want you kids to learn to eventually love these healthy foods but if you have a picky toddler on your hands, it can be nice to rest assured that they are getting essential vitamins and nutrients even if they don’t know it.
5. Work Out a Rewards System
You’re probably thinking you aren’t willing to be so indulgent to your child’s whims, but before you get too judgmental, remember that even adults need rewards sometimes. How many times have we decided to stop off at the gym so we can have a guilt-free dessert after dinner?
Involve your child in the dinner decisions, and find out what veggie sides he or she is willing to eat. Let them know that there will be no dessert if they don’t eat the foods they’ve picked. That way, if there’s still untouched veggies on the plate at the end of the meal, you can at least sleep easy knowing you did worsen the issue by giving them a treat as well.
6. Get the Kids Involved
Kids like to help out in the kitchen, and they are much more likely to try something they helped prepare. Take your picky eater to the grocery store with you and have them help you pick out the meal. At dinner time, ask them to help you cook it, and watch with amazement as they actually take a bite without a fight! Even very young kids can help with tasks like mixing, measuring and sorting.
Better yet, grow your own fruits and veggies! You kids will be sure to show interest in vegetables that grew from seeds right in their own backyard. Plus they taste better and have more nutrients for the whole family.
For more tips and tricks, head to Modernize.com.