Kids aren't born craving french fries, ice cream, and sugary cereals. But when they're exposed to processed food and only processed food (which are pumped with so many artificial ingredients that it's questionable if it should even considered "food" at all), that's what they end up craving because that's what they know.
Exposing your kids (or nieces, nephews, grandkids, cousins, etc.) to the wide array of healthy food at a young age is not only beneficial for their mental, emotional, and physical well-being, but it will surely prevent any temper tantrum from occurring in the cookie aisle of the grocery store.
Here are 4 ways to introduce healthy foods to your kids in a fun and effective way (and you don't even have to tell them that what they're eating is good for them!)
1. Get them involved
I find that kids who are more involved with where their food comes from are more likely to eat it. For instance, my cousin has two young girls (ages 3 and 5) and they LOVE healthy food! At a bagel brunch, the 5 year old ate the tomato slices off the bagel and left the bagel on the plate uneaten. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Their parents have two gardens in the backyard and the girls help take care of it. No wonder they love vegetables so much-- they are connected with where their food is coming from! Even for kids who don’t have their own gardens, they can still feel that sense of pride and accomplishment by helping you out in the kitchen and taking ownership in their culinary creation.
2. Give them a choice
Kids are more likely to do what you want if you give them a choice rather than tell them what they have to do. I remember back in the day when I used to do a lot of babysitting, instead of telling the kids, “Change into your pajamas”, I would ask “Do you want to change into your pajamas before you brush your teeth or after?” Worked like a charm :) This strategy makes kids feel more empowered and less resistant to doing what you want them to do. The same goes with food. Do you think a child is going to be respond more favorably to “Eat your broccoli!” or to “Would you rather have the carrots or the broccoli today?”
3. Make the presentation fun
Spinach is no longer spinach when it becomes the leaves on a flower. Broccoli is no longer broccoli when it becomes a tree. Be creative. Play with your food and encourage your kids to do the same! Cut their food into different shapes so they resemble different things. Use a fun plate or container. Take advantage of the different colored fruits and vegetables to “paint” something onto the blank “canvas” (the plate). Turn the food into an outdoor scene, a face, or your child’s favorite cartoon character.
4. Highlight the nutritional benefits in ways they’ll understand
Kids can be turned off by healthy foods for the sole reason that it’s good for them. Somewhere along the way, learning that something is “healthy” automatically made that food lose its appeal. But what if put a new spin on fruits and vegetables, highlighting their benefits in terms they understand? Leave out information about antioxidants or anti-cancer properties, and simplify it. For instance, one of the health benefits of blueberries is that it helps to improve vision. If your child is resistant to eating blueberries, they might reconsider if you told them that blueberries would give them super duper eyesight like their favorite super hero. If kale is not high up on the list, tell them that eating kale will give them beautiful teeth and healthy bones.