For those of you who have a picky eater, mealtimes can be a nightmare. Not only do you need to make sure your child eats, but you also want to ensure that your children are getting the nutrients they need to thrive. Here are some tips to make sure your children are getting what they need to stay healthy and active.
Expose your child to different tastes and foods. Don’t force your children to try new foods but make sure they see you and the rest of the family enjoying a variety of foods. Over time, your child may be more willing to try different foods. Also, don’t stop making a particular food just because your child didn’t like it the first time. Children acquire tastes over time. Your child may need to taste the same food several times before developing a taste for it.
Make sure your pantry is stocked with healthy snacks. If your little one only has nutritious items to choose from, you will reduce the risk of your child filling up on junk foods. Items to keep on hand include low-sugar granola bars, fruit, cheese, wholegrain crackers, yogurt, nuts, nut butters, vegetables and nutritious dips like hummus and guacamole. Try to avoid cookies, chips, ice cream, juices and chocolate. By keeping these foods out of the house, your little one will develop healthy eating habits and many food battles will be avoided.
Involve your child in the process of food preparation. Get your child to help pick out vegetables at the grocery store or set the table for dinner. Children are more likely to enjoy eating and view it as a fun activity if they feel like they have some control over what they eat and if they are an active participant in the process.
Serve a wide variety of foods at meals. Include foods your child likes and some new or less interesting foods. By having a variety to choose from, your child won’t feel pressured into eating something they aren’t comfortable with and may be more likely to try something different along with an old favorite.
Consider a smoothie for breakfast or as a snack. Blend together milk (dairy, goat, or a non-dairy substitute) with some fresh or frozen fruit on days when your child is being particularly fussy or hasn’t eaten well. Frozen bananas are a special treat in smoothies and are a great way to use bananas that would otherwise go bad. For added nutritional value, consider a protein powder made for kids and some good fats, like flaxseed oil. Nut butters are also delicious when added to a smoothie.
Make some sneaky switches. Most children won’t notice if you switch the white pasta to whole wheat or gluten free. Even better, make whole grains and gluten free foods a part of their diet from the very beginning. Wholegrain breads, crackers, pasta and brown rice make a nutritious alternative to their white counterparts and offer more fiber as well. Consider blending some carrots, zucchini and other vegetables into the tomato sauce, soups or casseroles to incorporate some vegetables into your child’s diet, especially if vegetables are usually shunned.
Practice what you preach. Your child will not develop a healthy appreciation for nutritious food if mom or dad is seen munching on potato chips and soda. Take this opportunity to make over your entire family’s diet and health. If your children see you enjoying an apple, chances are they will want one too.
Remember at the end of the day, it is not what your children have eaten in one particular day that will determine their overall health. Over the span of weeks or months, what your children eat usually ends up being healthy and balanced overall as long as you are making healthy foods accessible.