In honor of Food Day, Chef Lilly Steirer and I have been talking about some of the great ways to incorporate more nourishing foods into our diets. One of the things she asked me was to comment on some strategies for helping our kids to eat well. Kids, mine included, can be very picky eaters, so here are some of my strategies for helping them to make nutritious choices:
Repetition–Often, just having a healthy option on the table, and asking the kids to eat just a little of it, will pay off over time as they become accustomed to it.
“Deconstructed” meals–One thing that has been helpful for getting my kids to eat well is recognizing that, while the whole meal may not look appealing, the individual components of the meal often are. I often serve “deconstructed” meals. For instance, if you make a chicken curry, you can reserve some of the plain cooked chicken, veggies, and rice and allow the kids to use the sauce as they please.
Healthy alternatives–Have fruits, veggies, nuts, and healthy crackers available when they reach for a snack. At dinner time, make sure there is a protein, a healthy starch such as brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain pasta, and a vegetable available.
Ownership–letting your kids choose from an array of healthy options helps them be more excited about eating. My kids always eat more of their lunches when they make their own or we talk about what they want to eat when I pack it.
Gardening– Gardening has also been a great way to get my kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables because they have seen them from seed to table and they feel a sense of ownership and pride with the produce we have produced.
Good Attitude–If your kids see you being picky about food, they are more likely to be less adventurous.
Moderation–Treat treats like treats, not habits. A small bite of good quality dark chocolate is not the same as an entire Hershey bar. Instead of soaking pancakes in syrup, my kids love a small pool to dip in. Life and eating should be fun, just keep things in check.