1. Offer choices. The best way to get kids to eat healthy is to give them a choice between two or more healthy foods. Giving the child some control over his or her meals without sacrificing nutritious food choices is key. They will enjoy feeling some control over what they eat, and you know in the end that one of those choices is a healthy one, either way.
2. Spice up healthy food choices. Fancy up the less than fancy food options. Let your child put cream peanut butter on the celery. Or cream cheese on fruit. This way kids enjoy the taste of their food without taking away too much from the nutritious value of the meals.
3. Enlist them to help. When the picky eater helps to prepare some of the foods that go into a meal, she is more likely to take an interest in eating those foods. Let them stir, pour, set times, etc. to get them involved in the process.
4. Prepare Only One Meal. Make meals for the entire family where you all eat the same thing. If you continually prepare a separate dish for your children, then they will learn to expect the foods that they want and will refuse to eat meals that they didn’t chose. So, if you ever do want your child to eat what the whole family eats, then begin that way. To make this easier, include a food or two in the meal that you know your child will like. That way, there is something that they can eat, even if they don’t like the rest of the meal.
5. Encourage them to eat a rainbow. It is best to have a colorful diet of a variety of fruits and veggies, so encourage your child to “eat a rainbow.” Look at a picture of a rainbow and talk about each of the colors. What fruits and veggies fall into those color ranges? Discuss and make a plan to consume a rainbow daily.
6. Don’t Force the Issue. You can’t control if your child eats or not, so don’t try to force the issue. The more we push to get our children to eat, the more they will clamp shut and not eat. So, even though you might be boiling inside, put the choice on your child. “It looks like you don’t really want to eat, and that’s okay. If you chose not to eat, I’ll make sure you have a good breakfast in the morning.”
7. No Late Night Snacks. One of the biggest and worst pitfalls we can get into is giving children who refuse to eat snacks (or entire meals) after dinner and before bed. Why in the world would a child eat their good healthy dinner when they know they can get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a few hours? So those are my tips, but I’d love to know what you think. Have you tried anything that works for you and your kids?
8. Be sneaky. Hide healthy foods! You can often include some healthy foods inside of other foods without your child even noticing it. Finely chopped vegetables can be added inside of a pasta sauce, or finely chopped veggies can be added to hamburger patties. Many fruit drinks can also be made with fresh fruits and veggies!
9. Make a veggie kabob- food on a stick is instantly fun and appealing to a child.
10. Let kids plant and grow their own vegetables. As the veggies are ready to eat, let them harvest wash, and help prepare them. This is a great activity on so many levels and is very enriching and rewarding. Besides that, it helps get kids excited to eat those veggies!