In Getting Kids to Eat Real Food Part 1 we discussed food battles, as well as our goals and responsibilities in feeding our children. In this episode we get down to the practical matter by giving you lots of tips… many you’ve probably never heard before and will be surprised by.
Children Have Genuine Preferences
It’s true that you don’t know what you like until you try it. We should always encourage our children to try new flavors and textures. But if they repeatedly tell you that they don’t like something, it’s okay to respect that and not require them to eat it. If your child has a genuine dislike, there are plenty of other ways to get that same nutrition.
There’s nothing wrong with putting vegetables or fruit in your prepared foods to boost nutrition, but tricking your child to eat something he wouldn’t otherwise eat is not moving forward our overall agenda of teaching him to make good food choices and acquire a taste for wholesome food. It’s better to be honest and upfront about what’s on the menu and turn it into an opportunity to teach and grow.
You’ll have an easier time getting your child to eat vegetables if you cook them (but not mushy) and season them well. No one enjoys plain veggies. Feel free to add butter, salt, cheese, garlic, bacon etc. Also, most vegetables can be roasted which develops the natural sugars and makes a tasty char that most kids find pleasing.
It’s okay to design you child’s plate so that the quantities of what they like and dislike allow them to have some of both but force them to eat what they don’t necessarily want (usually the vegetables) to get more of what they do want.
Dealing with Sugar
Sugar, especially used in a more healthy and natural form, is not a bad thing. HOWEVER, we all eat too much. It’s possible to wean your child’s taste buds down as well as his physical bodily demand for sugar by reducing the amount of commercially produced foods that you provide, and cooking from scratch at home. You can easily reduce the amount of sweetener in any baked good by AT LEAST 25% without anyone even noticing.
Sweet drinks can be a really big issue with kids. But it’s also a great place to cut out or reduce lots of unnecessary sugar. For young children, juices can be cut with water to reduce sweetness and sugar content.
For older children who are used to having sodas, buy 12oz (or smaller) cans instead of 2 liters so you can control portions. Having water at meals will not only save you money at restaurants, it will allow you to save the sugar for a special snack or treat.
When eating candy, your child doesn’t need a full bag or candy bar. Get him accustomed to eating a smaller portion (for example – 2 or 3 squares from a chocolate bar or 1 small scoop of ice cream instead of a bowl full).
When you’re eating a diet of whole real foods, you don’t need as many snacks to keep you going! Real food is full of healthy fat, protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates that fuel your body for a long time and keep you fuller longer.
Evenso, young children often need a snack. Sometimes (just like us adults) they just want to munch on something salty or sweet and they aren’t really hungry. Other times, they really do need a boost to make it through the afternoon. Use these times as opportunities to help your child learn the difference between the two and make his own choice between a small handful of something to satisfy the munchies or some filling nutrition.
Sugary breakfast cereals offer very little nutrition. But no one wants to eat plain flakes! Start with a whole grain unsweetened variety and let you child add his own topping. This way, you can be in control.
Oatmeal gets a bad rap – instant packets are mushy and slimy. If your kids don’t think they like that, give it another chance. Whole cooked oats are easy, meaty, chewy and kids love them. There are lots of healthy topping choices to add flavor and variety.
Ideas for cold cereal toppings include chocolate chips, honey, maple syrup, chopped fruit (apples, peaches, raisins, dates, etc), candied nuts, or a handful of our granola. On hot whole oats try butter, cream or milk, honey, maple syrup, fruit butters, jam, yogurt, nuts, raisins, dates, chopped fruit or chocolate chips. Be creative!
If your child doesn’t want his food mixed and prepared together, it’s okay to accommodate that to a point. For instance, if he doesn’t like salads, just put larger chopped components on a plate for finger munching. Or if he will eat the beef stew without the peas, just put the peas on the side.
Doing this on occasion when you know there’s a true preference is not compromising our goal of teaching him to eat what’s available and developing his tastes as long as he is in fact eating the same food – just presented slightly differently.
Get Kids Involved
When your child has some ownership in buying the groceries, planning and preparing the meals, he’s more likely to want to eat. Choose age-appropriate tasks and let him help. Teach him about where food comes from and how it’s grown/processed. Shopping, cooking & cleaning skills are important practical life lessons.
Bring your children with you into our store. We’d love to give them a sample cup of chocolate milk and we usually have some bakery sample available too. We love to help children learn to love good food.