Summer is the perfect time to stock up on seasonal and locally grown fruits and vegetables that are at their ripest. With so many healthy options looking and tasting their best, this is a great time to encourage your kids to improve their dietary habits. Of course, many kids won’t touch anything that is green or not fried, so try out a few of these tricks to get them interested in good food.
First and foremost, the most important tip in encouraging your kids to eat well is making sure that you are eating well, especially if you have toddlers around the house. It’s easier to build healthy habits at a very young age, and if young kids see you eating something healthy, they will likely want some, too. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that this can work for older kids too, as the behaviors of a parent have a huge impact on the learned behaviors of a child.
- Whip up some healthy smoothies. While store-bought smoothies tend to be loaded with sugars from added juices, homemade smoothies and juices are much healthier and can be customized to the individual’s preference for sweetness or tartness. Get out your blender and try interesting combinations, like mango and raspberry, banana and peanut butter, or orange and pineapple. Finding the right combination can taste more like a dessert than a healthy snack to a child. As a base, use frozen yogurt or regular vanilla yogurt to keep the calories low and the nutrition high. Avoid adding extra sugars and juices as the natural sweetness of the fruit is very high as it is. Smoothies can also be an excellent way to sneak in some greens. Before you add in all of the ingredients for the smoothie you are going to make, toss in a little kale and water and use the food chopping option of your blender. Your kids will have no idea that you are feeding them a serving of vegetables because the rest of the ingredients will mask the taste and color. Take your kids to the farmers market and invite them to choose their own ingredients for a new type of smoothie.
- If your little ones have a problem with the texture of a smoothie, they might enjoy chocolate dipped berries. While you probably want to keep these as a special treat only, giving the kids a little candy for eating their fruit is an effective, but small reward. In most cases, there’s still more fruit than candy in each serving. Customize them to be covered in chocolate chips or rainbow colored sprinkles to further entice your kids.
- The standard go-to for a healthy kids’ snack is the classic cut-up veggies (usually carrots, celery, and/or broccoli) with ranch dressing. However, try substituting hummus first for a healthier alternative. If this isn’t an appealing combo to your kids, try alternating different vegetables to see if you can find things they like. Frequent favorites include cut up bell peppers, cucumbers, and mushrooms. If this still doesn’t appeal to them, try another classic like ants on a log (celery sticks with peanut butter spread on them and raisins on top to represent the ants).
- Many kids don’t like to eat raw vegetables, so a good way to encourage them to eat more greens is to try differing ways of cooking. Try grilling skewers of vegetables. You can even add a sauce like barbecue or teriyaki if that will encourage them to try it. Children are very visual, so seeing their food on a stick might appeal to them more than just simply spreading vegetables on a plate to serve to them. You can even get a skewer making kit and get them involved in the process, which will make it feel more like a fun activity than eating healthy.
- Make some baked kale chips for a popular snack. Just lay out a large handful of kale on a baking sheet, drizzle the kale lightly with olive oil, sprinkle on a little cheese (parmesan works well here), and bake until the kale is crispy and brittle. The addition of cheese is enough to make most kids enjoy any vegetable.
- Try adding healthy ingredients into foods they already enjoy. For example, make homemade tomato soup or chicken soup and add in new ingredients like spinach, kale, chick peas, or Brussels sprouts. You can try putting these ingredients in a food processor first if you think they’ll be better-received if they aren’t so detectable. You can also make mashed cauliflower that simulates mashed potatoes. Add a little garlic and cheese, and they won’t be able to tell the difference.
- Invest in a high-quality juicer, and start juice pressing some organic vegetables and fruits. Be sure to rinse the produce well and peel certain pieces when necessary, as any dirt left behind will give the resulting liquid a more earthy texture. Vegetables like carrots and beets yield sweeter juices, so fill half a cup with one of these as a base, and fill the rest with a combination of pressed fruit juices. This is a great way to give your child 100% healthy and organic servings of fruits and vegetables, which they will just think is a delicious fruit juice.
Teaching your kids to eat right and take care of their bodies doesn’t have to feel like a major chore. Make it fun by listening to your kids, responding to their requests as well as their likes and dislikes, and involving them in the prep and cooking to make it a fun activity.