A cucumber really can't compete with a cookie when it comes to kids. Totally understandable! With no shortage of Jewish holidays and yummy foods this time of year, there are so many opportunities to sit down with our kids and invite them to make healthy food choices with us.
Some kids might balk at the mention of veggies. Some kids might only be keen on eating protein if it's fried and doused in ketchup. And then there are some kids that love whatever you put on their plate. They'll eat sushi, portobello mushrooms, and globs of pesto like cake was never invented.
Every family has a mix. I've got one kid who cries for red peppers and salad and another who cries if I stick a sweet potato next to his pargiot. Sometimes I have to be very clever to make sure that my picky eater is getting a wide variety of foods.
Some picky eaters have sensory issues and the texture and wetness of fruits and veggies hits their taste buds the wrong way. Some simply haven't acquired the taste of them yet. A lot of kids know that if they hold out, they'll get something else to fill their belly.
Studies show that in order for a child to become acclimated to a new taste, they need to be introduced and have a taste of the new food item as much as 25 times! How's that for getting your kid to eat his brussel sprouts? With the wide array of fruits and veggies and other foods, food tasting could become a full time job! Read on for my tips on how to successfully introduce more healthful foods into your kids diet without creating a power struggle.
1. Sneak Attack! I add finely shredded zucchini or carrots to the beef in my bolognaise recipe or taco filling. I add fresh herbs to everything! Dill, parsley, coriander, scallions. The more little green bits my kid sees the less little greens bits bother him.
2. Pair some veggies with dairy. I'm not a huge fan of dairy and keep our daily serving to one time a day but I do find that veggies paired with cheese, like spinach lasagna or fresh herbs and butter with spelt pasta and green peas are never turned down. Red peppers and cucumbers dipped in cream cheese- yummmmm. Makabi makes a goat cream cheese that is more easily digestible than regular cream cheese.
3. Have it ready! Having a plate of sliced veggies on a cute platter or a fruit salad sitting at the table when the kids come home from school gives them an easy healthy choice before they can even open the cupboard and start their junk food search.
4. Barter and bargain. If my kids ask for a nosh like chips or a cookie, I won't say no all the time. I really don't want them to be the annoying kid who walks around with his hand out schnorring nosh in the park. My goal is to cultivate a healthy relationship with food that will endure throughout their lifetime. If my kids ask for a cookie, I tell them sure, after they eat a fruit or vegetable. This works great. I promise.
I also bargain with new foods. Three bites and you're done. Eventually they don't stop at three bites and they realize how much they enjoy it.
5. Out of sight, out of mind. The less you buy and have around, the better. Keep snacks that lack any nutritional value (chips, bisli, bumba, cookies, sweets, juice etc.), out of the house. Kids will be much more likely to choose a healthy fruit, vegetable, or nut if that's all there is.
6. Eat as a family. Research shows that families who eat a meal together make better food choices. Prepare healthy salads and eat together. It might not happen the first time, but if done consistently, you demonstrating positive food choices will effect your kids.
The most important thing is to create a positive and informed relationship with food. That means not stressing about teaching our kids to eat healthy. Make small and consistent changes and eventually you'll see your kids making the right choices on their own.