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Getting your kid to eat fruits and vegetables does not have to be a fight. With a solid method and healthy encouragement, you can get your kid to make their own nutritious food selections. Along the way, they will learn other important life lessons as well.
Teaching Your Kid
Seattle Children’s Hospital recommends involving your kid as much as possible. Teach them how to read food labels and to compare the sugar content of different cereals or the fat content in ice cream. Make reading labels a game, suggests the American Heart Association. They also suggest getting your kid involved in cooking and planning meals. When you are making a grocery list, let them choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. At mealtime, offer choices wherever possible. For example, at breakfast, ask if they would rather have whole-wheat toast or fruit and yogurt.
When preparing meals, give your kid a chance to assist, even if it is with a small task, like pressing the button on the blender when you are making a smoothie. By the way, a smoothie is a great way to add fruits and vegetables to your kid’s daily intake. Other no-cook meals, such as sandwiches or fruit and yogurt parfaits, are great for your kid to assist with too. Older kids can assist in cooking pasta and other simple meals.
According to WebMD, you should not label foods as “good” or “bad”. Instead, relate good food choices to doing well in school and sports. For example, tell them that a healthy breakfast will help them focus for a test, and that lean proteins will give them strength for soccer practice.
Obviously, your kid cannot eat junk food if it isn’t in your house. As the parent, you control what food comes into your home. Instead of chips and soda, purchase fresh fruit, plain popcorn, and water. Kids like convenience, so keep fruit washed, cut up, and in plainly visible, easy-to-reach places. Also, if you are on the go, bring a healthy snack with you. Then, you can resist the temptation to stop at the fast food drive-thru.
You can also switch many less healthy foods for more nutritious options. For example, choose brown rice, whole wheat bread and pasta, and unsweetened oatmeal. If your kid wants more flavor than plain water, Seattle Children’s Hospital suggests mixing a small amount of lemonade with sparkling water. You can also purchase sparkling water in fun flavors that have no sugar or calories. WebMD suggests swapping regular potato chips and dip for baked tortilla chips and salsa. Instead of candy, try dipping fresh strawberries in a little chocolate sauce.
One Step Further
The sooner you start to offer new foods, the more likely your kid is to take to them. Encouraging your kid to try new foods is great, but do not force it. Never punish them for not trying new foods or not emptying their plate. Do not give up the first time they reject something, says PBS; most kids need to be exposed to a new food between five and ten times before they will try it.
Helping your kid make nutritious food selections is important, but do not stop there; also encourage them to stay active (there are plenty of fun ways to do so) and drink enough water throughout the day. If your kid sees being fit matters to you and is a family affair, they are more likely to follow along. As PBS states, be a role model. If your kid sees you order a fresh salad rather a burger and fries at the drive-through, they will feel motivated to do the same.