Tips For Healthy Meals Kids Will Actually Eat
Feeding children can be a complete and utter disaster. Between tracking their ever-changing favourite foods and ebbs and flows in appetites and somehow slowing them down long enough to provide them with a relatively nutritious meals, things rarely go as planned. Thankfully, a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of faith, kids can eat well without major drama.
The dining table should not be a battle ground.
If the kid doesn’t like it, they aren’t going to eat it. Forcing it down their throats only makes that particular food seem exceedingly unpleasant. Instead, allow meal times to be was calm as possible. Drama isn’t going to get them to eat their broccoli but it is very likely to give them a bad impression of what family meal times are all about.
Always offer them the same meal you are eating
Sitting down for the family meal means eating the same things and talking about how the food makes you feel. Your three year old might have hated peas yesterday but, as you know, their preferences change quickly. Allow them to try, re-try or totally ignore food. Let them eat the parts of the meal that they like and if you find that they have missed something (protein, carbs etc.), make note and try to adapt your next meal accordingly.
Give them time to try it (or not)
They may not try it right away. In fact they may move it around on the plate for ages, never intending to put it anywhere near their mouth. But, before offering alternatives or nudging them a little too hard, have patience. Let them take their time with the food. They may surprise you... or not. But at least you are giving them the authority to make their own choices thereby eliminating the useless power struggle.
Offer them a simple alternative
If they truly haven’t eaten enough, offer them more of what they did like. Didn’t like anything? Well, we aren’t about to let them starve, but if you offer carte blanche, they will likely come to realize that if they hold out long enough they will end up with pizza after all. Instead, give them two to three options of healthy alternatives and let them make the decision. No, it may not be a perfect solution and they may just end up on the floor screaming for cotton candy, but eventually their stomach should override their emotions.
Whole grains are not optional
By providing children with refined foods we create an opportunity for addiction. It is no secret that sugar is an addictive substance. More and more studies are revealing the impact that sugar has on rising dopamine levels and increased tolerance for sweets. Refined foods are no different. Refined flours, pastas, breads and rice all act like sugar when digested. As a result, children begin craving sugary substances in an effort to achieve the dopamine-inducing glycemic spike that they have previously experienced. By feeding them just a single refined flour-laden meal you are increasing their tolerance for and desire for sugary products.
Always provide whole grain carbohydrates
In this day and age there is no reason to purchase anything refined. Children’s preferences with foods are based upon their experiences. If they haven’t tried white bread, they won’t prefer it to whole grain. Make sure that the vast majority of foods you serve your child are foods made with whole grains. Whole grain french toast, pancakes, bagels and rice will impact their future food choices.
Occasional refined foods need not be labeled as special
Pointing out a refined food, processed or irregular food choices as a very special treat only further discounts the value of the normal meals. While it is unrealistic to expect that you will never acknowledge special occasions and holiday meals, it is important to maintain the equal importance of regular foods.
Dessert is not the norm
Dessert is not only a digestive nightmare, increasing the amount of glucose at a time when your body requires assistance in metabolism and detoxification, but it also encourages unnecessary cravings. Desserts are fine on special occasions and even once or twice a week but making it a regular occurrence discounts the value of a meal.
Breakfast is ONE of the most important meals of the day
Yes, starting the day with a nutritious meal is super important. But some kids aren’t terribly hungry in the morning and forcing heavy food on them only slows their metabolism further. However, a smoothie, big glass of water and a variety of healthy kid-approved snacks can help to stimulate their appetite and get them ready for major food later in the day.
Blend it up
The morning is not always the ideal time to eat. Some people find that they aren’t hungry at the ungodly hours we tend to rise. Kids are no different. Offering them a smoothie in the morning can provide them with more than enough nutrients, protein and energy to start the day. Try mixing fruits, vegetables, nut butters and/or seeds and milk or milk alternatives together for a flavourful and nutritious morning meal.
Pack it to go
Whether it is the remaining smoothie or a piece of fruit, making sure they have an emergency morning snack is one way to ensure they aren't over hungry by lunchtime.
Hydrate in order to stimulate
If your child’s morning appetite is wavering, offer them water first thing in the morning. Adding lemon or other fruit allows them to get a boost of flavour, develops an alkaline state in the body and begins to stimulate the appetite.
Kids have a say too
Children need to be a part of the planning and preparing process of food. This helps them to develop an understanding of where the food they eat comes from, how to cook food in a healthy way and to teach them to make great choices.
Even if it is simply getting together to make up some creative sandwich additions, cooking together allows kids to understand what goes into the foods they eat everyday. From the ingredients themselves to the effort, children are more likely to try new things if they had a part in creating is.
Buying the same old fruits and vegetables may be an easy way to shop but it certainly won’t spur any interest in new flavours. Allow your children to choose new and interesting fruits and vegetables to add to the shopping list. Older kids can even research fruits and vegetables that they think would be a fun addition to the week’s groceries. They may not end up liking it but trying it is half the battle.
Build your lunchbox
Building your child’s daily lunchbox is a great way to help them learn how to create a balanced diet. We have come up with a simple way to offer your kids an awesome array of healthy foods in a fun and collaborative way.