My Top 10 Tips to get Kids eating Healthy
I get asked a lot about what I feed my kids. Why? Because for most parents it is a challenging, frustrating, thankless task that takes up a lot of our time and thought processes. Do your kids come home from school with full lunch boxes, raid the fridge and pantry and then turn their nose up at the beautiful home-cooked meal you just spent the last hour preparing? If you answered yes, you already know you’re not alone because every other mum at school has said the same thing! We all need help in this area and love tips and suggestions from others. Having two kids of my own Oscar, 7 and Lily, 6 and a huge love and passion for nutritious food I’ve invested a lot of time into trying to make my kids healthy eaters. It’s certainly not easy, it’s always a work in progress but I’m prepared to win the battle!
I’ve put together my Top 10 tips to get kids to eat healthy, I’m sure you could add plenty more. So whether you’re a mum, dad, grandparent, aunty, uncle, babysitter or friend to little people hopefully this will help you out:
1. Keep them hungry! Noticed how much better food tastes when you’re hungry compared to when you’re full? I don’t know about you but I could eat anything when I’m starving. It’s the same for kids, stack the odds by making sure they’re hungry at mealtimes – the chances of them eating whatever you put in front of them are a lot higher. Especially if you want them to eat a big plate of veggies at dinner time!
2. Eat Dinner Early – this can be tricky as kids get older and there’s after school activities but forward planning and food preparation gets a big tick when it comes to getting a meal on the table quickly. Put the slow cooker on, prepare a few meals on the weekend or cook part of the meal in the morning. The earlier they eat the less tired and grumpy they are, the less they need to snack in the afternoon and the hungrier they will be.
3. Keep Veggies Alive – Over-cooked veggies taste awful – I don’t find over-cooked broccoli appealing so how can I expect my kids to? Either serve them raw, lightly steamed or stir fried. Keep them alive and tasty with a bit of crunch.
4. Stop relying on Carbs – Try to feed your kids protein and healthy fats at each meal. Why? It fills them up. Short story; eating carbohydrates raises blood sugar levels which raises your insulin levels, the food is stored for later use, blood sugar levels fall and very quickly you are hungry again. By adding protein and fat to your meals you slow down the digestive process, blood sugar levels don’t rise as much and you feel fuller for longer.
5. Stop the endless snacks – Do you feel like you are constantly feeding your kids all day? Are they saying they’re hungry all the time? This goes back to point number 4, if you feed them good sources of protein and fats at meals then they should only need a very small snack, if any, between meals. By limiting snacks we are also building hunger for the next meal (see point 1).
6. Bring on nutritious food – I may not be popular with some mums for saying this but a white bread jam or vegemite sandwich is not lunch! If your kids love sandwiches at lunch time then add a good source of protein (tinned fish, chicken, egg etc), avocado, cheese and lots of salad and serve it on a really heavy brown grainy bread. But think outside the square lunch doesn’t have to be a sandwich; try rice paper rolls, sushi, leftover meat/chicken/salmon patties from dinner, mini frittatas, zucchini slice, veggie sticks, boiled eggs.
7. Keep trying rejected foods – Don’t give up if your child rejects a particular food, try presenting it a different way next time. If they didn’t like steamed carrot sticks then next time try a whole raw carrot. If they don’t like boiled eggs, then try scrambled. Keep trying at least 10 times over a year presenting the food in different guises and get them involved in the cooking process. Kids are smart, try explaining to them what vitamins/minerals are in that food and what it’s good for. (Stay tuned for more on this topic).
8. Don’t make a second meal – I can honestly say I’ve never made a second meal. I may have once or twice cooked up an egg to go with a meal if they wouldn’t eat the protein component. But my kids know that if you don’t eat what I’ve cooked there’s nothing else.
9. Reduce food chemicals – Basically try to stick to real foods as much as possible, bake things at home, read labels and avoid numbers, preservatives, artificial colours and flavours. When you start reading the ingredients list on products you’ll be surprised at how many additives you find. I believe there’s sufficient anecdotal evidence out there from parents witnessing the difference in their child’s behaviour when certain foods are consumed. Read your bread label, does it have preservative 282? If so, ditch it. Yogurt; preservative 202? Muesli bars; preservative 220? Juice; preservative 211 or 223? Some families witness a huge improvement in their child’s behaviour when they remove food chemicals from their child’s diet.
10. Say NO! – It’s ok to say no. When my kids first started swimming at Kings every week they asked for a lolly snake and I said no every week. Eventually they gave up. Then they put in the ice cream fridge and again I said no every week and eventually they gave up again!
I hope these tips help you but most importantly I would strongly encourage you to set a good example! Remember kids are always watching and learning from you. You can tell them to drink water while slugging down a Coke, but your picture is still telling them that drinking coke is fine. The responsibility is huge, you’re helping shape the relationship your child has with food for the rest of their lives. So make it a healthy and happy relationship – grow the food, prepare and cook the food and enjoy the food with friends and family, all together.
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