Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Making Healthy Food FUN for Kids (and Adults)!

If you have kids, then you probably know how challenging it can be to get them to eat healthy foods. Kids often have access to sugary sodas, candy, chips and other processed snacks during their school day. This can be a real hindrance if you are wanting your kids to grow up healthy, strong and developing good habits for when they become older.

I have been recently working with a family and their two children who are 6 and 8 years old. These kids LOVE candy. And ice cream. And sugary drinks. All they care about is treats when they get home. Getting these kids to eat a piece of fruit daily is like a miracle! Yesterday I made them their usual dinner - something frozen that you pop into the oven for a few minutes. I also made them a whole bunch of delicious raw fruit and vegetables, cut into bite sized pieces. I arranged the fruit and veggies in a fun way on a platter in the center of the table, and I let each child pick what they wanted. And you know what? They actually ate it! Seriously. I have never seen these kids eat so much healthy food at dinner.

Here are some easy tips for getting YOUR kids to eat healthier:

One big thing that makes healthy food more appealing is the way it is cut. If you give a kid a giant carrot out of the bag, they probably won't eat it. But if you cut up a bunch of fruits and veggies in fun shapes and bite sized pieces arranged nicely on a plate, ready and waiting for them, they are WAY more likely to eat it. Having fun with this doesn't have to be complicated. Use a small cookie cutter to make hearts, stars and other cute shapes.

You can even do a fun project with your kids to cut fruits, veggies, bread or tortillas into cool shapes with small and medium sized cookie cutters. You can make easy sandwiches with the bread and quesadillas or wraps with the tortillas. Adults will even love it. I know that when I make a fun soup with star shaped carrots or heart shaped radishes, it makes eating more enjoyable.

When thinking in terms of color, here is an easy way to make things more exciting. Rainbows! Kids love rainbows. Rainbows make people feel happy. Try arranging your foods in rainbow order. Talk about the different colors on the plate with your kids. Talk about flavors and textures and take the time to help them experience why eating well is important. Talk about antioxidants. Kids really listen and will appreciate the time you spend with them in this way.

Eating foods that taste good is important to kids and adults! If you try to give people things they don't like, they will just rebel. So start with the things they do like. I found out the other day that the kids I work with like oatmeal. They only like to eat it with sugar on top. So, I let them have sugar on their oatmeal because at least it is getting them to eat oatmeal! Baby steps.

When your kids see you eating something healthy, they will want to copy you. When the kids I work with see me eating blueberries or salad, sometimes they will come over and ask if they can taste it. They often times like it. When you take care of your self by eating well, your kids will see it and also want to.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when preparing snacks and dinner for your kids:

  • Are the vegetables or fruits cut in an interesting or artful way?
  • Did you use a variety of ingredients, flavors, and colors?
  • Are the colors of the dish you prepared vibrant and lively?
  • Is the food arranged in a fun way on the plate?
  • Are you using a colorful plate that makes eating more exciting?
Wishing you success in raising a healthy and happy family, and future generations.

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