Health and happiness—two things every parent wants for their child. Good nutrition is at the heart of that equation. If a child is overweight, dealing with food allergies, or hooked on processed foods or refined sugars, that can negatively affect their appreciation of food as nourishment.
And yet, getting a child to eat healthy can be a daily struggle. Too often, parents give in just to appease a child. But that’s not helping a child learn to eat fresh veggies and fruits and other foods that will help them live a life of good health. By giving in and letting a child have only supersweet or artificially flavored foods that adulterate the taste buds, naturally good-tasting foods like broccoli or cauliflower stand little chance of becoming menu favorites.
Here are five ways to help your child learn to love healthy foods.
- Try new flavors. Kids are no different than adults when it comes to favorite foods. Help them develop favorites by using different spices and herbs. Low-sodium and salt-free options can help evolve a palate that loves super-salty foods. Have at least one item on the child’s plate that you know they like, but introduce new flavors, even some that they may not like. Making new foods a family sport can help a child feel like they are part of a healthier-eating team.
- Generate curiosity. By giving your kids choices of what to eat, you can peak their interest and encourage them to think for themselves. Instead of just adding a new item to their plate, give them options and ask them which one they like best—and why. Helping them become more curious about food can get them thinking about their choices instead of teaching them to choose forbidden foods as a form of rebellion.
- Be creative. Get creative with food combinations. Change sizes, shapes, and consistency to make food more appealing. Also add color to the plate to create a meal that pleases the eye and encourages the child to experiment with new foods.
- Remove temptation. Don’t bring unhealthy food choices home. That way, the only choice for a snack is nuts or an apple, instead of chips, cookies, or candy. Do not reward good eating with unhealthy snacks—no cookies as a reward for eating broccoli. That’s often what causes the problem in the first.
- Get kids involved. Involve your kids in shopping and have them help make a grocery list that is healthy. Also involve them in making out a weekly menu for meals. By showing them how to better understand healthy foods, they will develop a better understanding over just being told what to do. You might even be surprised at how much more you learn yourself as you’re teaching your child. That can even evolve your relationship with food, one of the best ways to get a child to eat healthy—give them something to admire and mirror, your own positive relationship with food.
Above all, be patient when trying to help your child learn to love healthier eating. Don’t give in when your child tries to manipulate you into letting them eat nothing but unhealthy choices. Be understanding and supportive, rather than punitive, and you’ll succeed at having a happier, healthier child.