As a nanny, I am the first to say that trying to get kids to eat healthy can be tough! But there are a few tricks that - along with patience - can get the job done. While they may seem to go against "common sense" but they work.
1. Don't Label Foods "Good" or "Bad"
This also means no forbidden foods. With some kids, this can lead to secret binging behavior that can follow them into adulthood. You might be thinking "well, I don't do that" but it can sneak into conversations when we're not thinking. Have you ever told your child "you can have dessert after you finish your broccoli?" You're sending him a message that cookies are better than broccoli, and that broccoli is "icky".
2. Be a Patient Detective
First, patience. You may have to introduce a new food to your child at least 8 times before they even TRY IT. That's right, try it. You're putting these new foods in front of them and trying to get them to eat it. At a young age, their brain is wired to reject foreign foods because their cave-kid brain doesn't know if its poison or not. Seeing you eat it signals safety, and introducing the food multiple times lets them But here's some tips to get you through that:
3. Don't Use Food as a Reward
Your child is born knowing how much they need to eat. A 1-day old baby knows when to stop suckling because she's full. Inherent in this concept is a healthy relationship with food as sustenance. By assigning another label (other than nutrition) to food, you begin to alter the relationship your child has with food. Your child can grow up to enjoy food in a social capacity as well, but won't see a piece of cake as a reward at the end of a bad day or worry about overeating or restricting at their friends' parties. Being able to incorporate all types of foods into a healthy eating pattern in moderation is key to raising an intuitive eater.
4. Eat Together
Research shows that kids who grow up in a household with regular family meals are healthier. By having positive family meals together, you bestow a positive relationship upon food in your child's eyes. It's also the perfect opportunity to be a great role model. If appropriate for your child, get them involved in meal preparation or even growing their own vegetables.
5. Explain Healthy Eating
One of my steadfast rules when taking care of children is to treat them likes adults as much as I can. A key aspect of this is explaining things to them. Do we have a day of errands ahead of us? I explain to them where we're going. How would you like to be put into a car and driven around without knowing what's going on? I bet you'd get pretty frustrated.
This rule goes for healthy eating, too. Google some kid nutrition information and teach them about grains, vegetables, fruits, and proteins. Empowering them with knowledge will get them excited about identifying what's on their plate, and how it powers their body and growth.
Have you ever struggled to get your kid to eat healthy? What did you try?