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Establishing healthy eating habits
Monday, 18 November 2013 12:12

How to get your kids to eat vegetables

 

As every loving parent knows, there is a fine line between cajoling and threatening your children in order to get them to eat their vegetables. Establishing healthy eating habits while they are young is one of the best things you can do for your children.

Emphasising a wide variety of foods at every meal will go a long way in helping your children develop a healthy way of eating that will serve them their whole lives.

1 Set an example. Children will not eat their vegetables if you don’t. Bring your children grocery shopping with you and allow them to choose vegetables they like. Encourage them to select those that are brightly-coloured and explain why. Richly hued vegetables are rich in vitamins A, C, iron and insoluble fibre. "Get them to touch it and smell it," says Negrin. "Having them see how the food is prepared makes them less intimidated. Having a sense of ownership makes them more likely to eat it."

2 Teach your children how to cook. If your child is old enough to help in preparing meals, allow him to select two vegetables for every dinner, for example, that he will help prepare and eat. This may be simply scrubbing new potatoes and washing baby carrots. Participating in the cooking will give him a reason to at least taste test his work.

3 Make variety important. No one wants to eat broccoli every day. Changing it up is key to keep your children consistently eating vegetables. The new food pyramid developed by the USDA recommends two cups of vegetables a day for adults. Children can do well with a cup and a half.

4 Provide small children with nutrition lessons. While you still have their attention, actively teach your kids why eating carrots is “good” for them. Explain that betacarotene is important for eye health. Dark leafy greens have vitamins A, C and calcium for bone growth.

5 Give teens choices. Older children will be more set in their ways, but don’t give up the fight. Still set out tossed salads and ask your teens to whip up a salad dressing of their liking.

6 Make a schedule. Children need to eat every three to four hours: three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids. If you plan for these, your child's diet will be much more balanced and he'll be less cranky, because he won't be famished. I put a cooler in the car when I'm out with my kids and keep it stocked with carrots, pretzels, yogurt, and water so we don't have to rely on fast food.

7 Plan dinners. If thinking about a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two or three days at a time. A good dinner doesn't have to be fancy, but it should be balanced: whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta; a fruit or a vegetable; and a protein source like lean meat, cheese, or beans. I often make simple entree soups or Mexican chilli ahead of time and then freeze it; at dinnertime, I heat it up and add whole-grain bread and a bowl of cut-up apples or melon to round out the meal.

8 Don't become a short-order cook. A few years ago, I got into a bad habit. I'd make two suppers -- one that I knew the kids would like and one for my husband and me. It was exhausting. Now I prepare one meal for everybody and serve it family-style so the kids can pick and choose what they want. Children often mimic their parents' behaviour, so one of these days, they'll eat most of the food I serve them.

9 Bite your tongue. As hard as this may be, try not to comment on what or how much your kids are eating. Be as neutral as possible. Remember, you've done your job as a parent by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them. If you play food enforcer -- saying things like "Eat your vegetables" -- your child will only resist.

10 Introduce new foods slowly. Children are new-food-phobic by nature. I tell my kids that their taste buds sometimes have to get used to a flavour before they'll like the taste. A little hero worship can work wonders too. Marty refused to even try peas until I told him that Michael Jordan eats his to stay big and strong. Now Marty eats peas all the time. Offer One New Vegetable Plus a Familiar One. Don't overwhelm your child by offering an entire plate filled with foods he doesn't recognise or doesn't like. Ask him to try only one new vegetable at a time. Make sure you serve other familiar foods -- hopefully including at least a veggie he already likes. That way you can encourage him to try the new food, but you'll both know he'll have something to eat if he isn't a fan.

11 Dip it. If your kids won't eat vegetables, experiment with dips. Kathleen tried her first vegetable when I served her a thinly cut carrot with some ranch salad dressing. My children also like hummus, salsa, and yogurt-based dressing. A healthy dip like hummus may make raw vegetables more appealing to kids. (Don't serve up sour cream or mayo-based dips.) Offer an array of baby carrots, snap peas, and other veggies with a bowl of tasty dip. Besides hummus, find a healthy recipe for ranch dressing that substitutes plain, low-fat yogurt instead of mayo. Kids like the act of dipping, and they like eating foods with their fingers

12 Make mornings count. Most families don't eat enough fibre on a daily basis, and breakfast is an easy place to sneak it in. Look for high-fibre cereals for a quick fix. Or, do what I do and make up batches of whole-grain pancake and waffle batter that last all week. For a batch that serves five, sift together 2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 Tbs. sugar. When you're ready to cook, mix in 2 Tbs. ground flax meal, 2 cups water, 3 Tbs. canola oil, 1/4 tsp. vanilla, and 2 Tbs. applesauce.

13 Sneak in soy. Even if your kids don't have milk allergies, soy milk is a terrific source of healthy phytochemicals. My kids don't like soy milk but don't notice when it's hidden in a recipe. I use the low-fat, calcium-fortified kind in some recipes that call for milk, such as oatmeal, mashed potatoes, and sauces.

14 Sprinkle some sugar. Julia eats her cooked carrots with a bit of brown sugar, and I mix a little root beer into her prune juice to make prune-juice soda. Kathleen and Marty like a sprinkle of sugar on their fruit. I know that they'll eventually outgrow this need for extra sweetness, but in the meantime, they're eating fruits and vegetables.

15 Cut back on junk. Remember, you -- not your kids -- are in charge of the foods that enter the house. By having fewer junk foods around, you'll force your children to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.

16 Allow treats. Having less healthy foods occasionally keeps them from becoming forbidden -- and thus even more appealing. We call candy, soda, and cookies "sometimes" foods. I generally buy only healthy cereals such as Cheerios and Raisin Bran, but I let my kids have sugary cereals when they visit their grandparents or when we're on vacation. And I treat them to McDonald's for lunch every so often.

17 Have fun. The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods my kids eat. We make smiley-face pancakes and give foods silly names. (Broccoli florets are "baby trees" or "dinosaur food.") Anything mini is always a hit too. I often use cookie cutters to turn toast into hearts and stars, which the children love.

18 Be a role model. If you're constantly on a diet or have erratic eating habits, your children will grow up thinking that this sort of behaviour is normal. Be honest with yourself about the kinds of food messages you're sending. Trust your body to tell you when you're hungry and when you're full, and your kids will learn to do the same.

19 Adjust your attitude. Realise that what your kids eat over time is what matters. Having popcorn at the movies or eating an ice-cream sundae are some of life's real pleasures. As long as you balance these times with smart food choices and physical activity, your children will be fine.

20 Sneak veggies into baked goods. "It eliminates the battle," says Missy Chase Lapine, author of The Sneaky Chef cookbooks. "We have precious time with our kids, and I would rather not spend it fighting over broccoli." She makes brownies with pureed spinach, chocolate chip cookies with white beans, and muffins with sweet potatoes and carrots. "Kids are happy. Parents are happy. The body is happy. It's a total win/win."

21 Set a Good Example. It's hard to convince a child to eat Brussels sprouts if you won't go near them. "Parents need to think of themselves as salespeople," says nutritionist Negrin. So eat veggies yourself, and make sure your child is watching. If you're not a big vegetable fan, then have Grandma or the sitter take on the role of veggie booster. Sometimes kids will listen to other people more than they'll listen to mom and dad.

22 Have Veggies Everywhere. When your child is hungry, if veggies are within reach, she'll be more likely to eat them. Cut up carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers and make sure they're sitting out when you're making dinner. If she asks for a pre-dinner snack, make that her only choice. Always have clean, cut-up veggies sitting up-front in the fridge where they're easy to see when your child is searching for food.

23 Roast Veggies. Sometimes kids don't like vegetables because they're too mushy or taste too strong. Try roasting them to get a flavour and consistency kids will like. Roasting can make them soft on the inside and crispy on the outside -- like French fries. It also brings out a vegetable's natural sweetness, so they don't taste as intense as they might when they're raw. Try drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with some parmesan cheese before roasting.

24 Take Advantage of Peer Pressure. Does your child have a friend who is an adventurous eater? Invite him over for dinner and serve up some new veggies. Peer pressure may work in a good way and your child may be more likely to try a new food if her buddy is bold enough to try it first.

25 Make Veggie Popsicles and Smoothies. Missy Chase Lapine, author of The Sneaky Chef cookbooks, purees sweet potatoes and carrots, mixes them with plain yogurt and a little orange juice, then freezes them like Popsicles. Try mixing veggies and fruits into smoothies too. Mix up an avocado with plain yogurt and frozen bananas and strawberries for a creamy, healthy treat.

26 Don't Give Up. If you've offered broccoli or spinach to your child several times and she's made a yucky face, don't give up. Kids' tastes change as they grow. They might have to try a new food a dozen times before they like it. "Don't label your kid a picky eater," says nutritionist Negrin. If you do, they may live up to the label. Instead, just try, try again, she says. "Sooner or later, they're going to be bold."

27 Don't Battle Over Veggies. When you're frustrated that your child won't try a veggie, it can be tempting to get mad or force her to clean her plate. Experts say forcing a child to eat something can cause them to avoid eating it, even as adults. "You never want to force feed because you don’t want it become an emotional drama," says dietician Tanner-Blasiar. "Don’t react one way or another. There are going to be things that they're not going to eat."

28 Make Veggies Fun. For a young child, making faces with cut-up veggies may help get them from his plate to his mouth. Calling broccoli "trees" or cauliflower "brains" can make them much less intimidating. Making food mini-sized also can make it more kid-friendly. "Oftentimes, it's the entertainment behind it," says clinical paediatric dietician Marilyn Tanner-Blasiar, MHS, RD, LD, of St. Louis Children's Hospital. "It's the exploration -- making it fun."

29 Offer Veggies With Fave Foods. If your child already likes plain pizza, see if she'll try adding a single veggie topping. Some kids don't like to mix foods -- especially messing with a food they think is already perfect. But some kids will be willing to experiment. Try setting up bowls of veggies for pizza night, taco night, or salad night, and let the family go wild. Kids may be tempted by the selection and fun of it being hands-on.

Articles by www.webmd.com, www.ehow.com and www.parents.com

 

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