When I was a kid, I used to think my parents were old-school disciplinarians because they would make me eat whatever food I was served. They took my nutrition seriously and didn’t allow me to have an unbalanced diet. If the family was eating peas, carrots, and chicken so was I. If my mom made lasagna with mushrooms, too bad, yours truly had to eat it.
This parental nutritional control was probably for the better, because I might have decided (at 5 years old) that I would never eat any animal product again, nor would I ever eat a meal that didn’t include chocolate and ice cream. While I have gone back and forth with the former choice for the last ten years, I eventually understood the importance of not continuing the hedonistic practice of the latter.
Bottom line? Food is an issue in every parent-child relationship. Here are some things to remember about kids and food:
- Most kids are going to have fussy food days (or years)
- If it’s up to them, kids will only choose food that tastes good and that they are familiar with
- Kids have to be taught to think about nutritious eating
- Parents are food teachers – kids learn eating habits and food choices from their parents
5 Tips for Kids’ Nutrition
- Set an Example – As the parent, make healthy food choices at the grocery store, at restaurants, and for meals and snacks at home.
- Offer Variety – Stock the kitchen with a wide variety of healthy foods. Encourage children to try new foods and give full access to a well-stocked fridge.
- Encourage Choice – Offer kids choices among healthy foods. It helps them to feel part of the process. Ask, “Do you want salad or carrot sticks? or “You can choose an apple or a plum,” instead of saying, “You have to eat your vegetables.”
- Encourage Participation – Get kids involved in cooking or preparing meals. Don’t make the kitchen off-limits. Think of it as a classroom.
- Eat Meals Together – Families who eat together stay together – and eat healthier, more balanced meals together. What a great way to live!
If you’re interested in getting your kids to eat well, here are some web resources:
The New York Times has some great articles on kids and food, including 6 Food Mistakes Parents Make, an article about nutrition during the summer months, and also Tug of War in Food Marketing to Children.
For great lunch ideas, check out Lunch in a Box.
Looking for ways to involve your kids in the kitchen? Check out Spatulatta for videos of kids teaching kids to cook.
The Nutritional Explorations site has games and activities for kids to learn about nutrition.
Do you have any tips for getting your kids to eat healthy food? Any frustrations?