During my days as a public school teacher, I witnessed several of my students eating fast food for breakfast every single day. One of the students in my class would even come to class with a large soda each morning as part of his “breakfast.” The amount of fats, sugar, and sodium that these young children were absorbing each day made me worried about their health and well-being. Not only did it make them more sluggish and less focused on their schoolwork, but they actually began to prefer chips and cookies over healthy alternatives such as fruits and vegetables. Throughout the years, I have become increasingly interested in ways to promote healthy eating among kids. Here a few tips that I’ve utilized to get my kids to eat better.
Make Fruit the Star of the Show at Breakfast. My family’s breakfast always revolves around fruit. Sometimes I’ll make all-natural fruit smoothies for my kids to enjoy. Other times we’ll create parfaits with yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit. My kids also enjoy having blueberry or raspberry pancakes, waffles, or muffins. I’ve even been known to broil grapefruit (with a touch of brown sugar) as a unique breakfast alternative. There are lots of fruit recipes sure to satisfy your family.
Highlight Fruits and Veggies All Day Long. Instead of just handing chips to your kids, give them chips and salsa or carrots and ranch dressing. Rather than giving them soda to drink, try Naked juice, Juicy Juice, or homemade lemonade. Instead of just making pepperoni pizza for dinner, add onions, mushrooms, and green peppers. Offer them dried fruit as a healthy alternative to sweets. Cut up cantaloupe and watermelon for snack time. Make fruit popsicles to enjoy on summer days. Add veggies to your omelets and fruits to your muffins and oatmeal. Show your kids that there are countless yummy ways to incorporate fruits and veggies into their daily routine.
Make Fun Food Snacks. My kids love making banana boats (bananas with peanut butter and chocolate chips). They also enjoy making “smiles” out of apple slices, peanut butter, and marshmallows. Another family favorite is to create “rainbows” by arranging several fruit slices (each of a different color) into a rainbow shape. There are dozens of fun and healthy snack ideas for kids to try. Make fun snacks together. Try new recipes. Find ways to make eating healthy foods fun. Although your children may not like certain fruits and vegetables at first, they will begin to acquire a taste for them if you feed them healthy food instead of sugary desserts and fatty foods.
Be Sneaky. Grate up zucchini and add it to spaghetti sauce. Add extra vegetables to casseroles and pizzas. Find sneaky ways to put fruits and veggies into your children’s every day favorite foods.
Let Them Try New Foods. Take your kids to the store and let them pick out a fruit or vegetable that they’ve never had but want to try. Then figure out a fun way to prepare it. This is a great way to introduce them to more foods while still making sure that it’s a healthy option.
Andrea Smith is a 30-something mother of three. She blogs about all things kid-related.