Healthy eating habits start from day 1. My sister once told me of a time that she went to the grocery store with her two little boys—ages 5 and 2. When she passed the vegetable section and was contemplating buying kale for one of her meals for the week, her 5-year-old starting chanting “I love kale! I love kale! I love kale!” Soon after her little 2-year-old joined in. Think how much easier it would be to eat healthy if we were taught from the get-go how to eat healthy? When babies are born, they eat milk…and that’s it. They have very little preferences around food. The sooner we introduce sugary and salty foods to our little ones, the sooner they will develop a craving for them. That doesn’t mean we should never let them try dessert. However, what if we first offered fresh grapes, strawberries, or a peach as their dessert and delayed giving them soda, candy, or a cookie? What if we started feeding them vegetables (perhaps boiled and then mashed if necessary) as soon as their little bodies were ready to digest it instead of giving them only white bread and white rice or crackers?
How can I do this?
Sometimes getting kids to eat vegetables, no matter how hard we try, is just hard! They may be at a stage where it is normal to be very picky. Here on some tips that might help.
Be the example! You can’t expect your preschooler to eat the vegetable if you don’t.
- Let your child pick out some fruits and veggies while at the grocery store. It will help them feel more independent and in control.
- Have your child help you prepare the meals. They will often find more excitement in eating it if they helped prepare it.
- Give them healthy options. Do not ask, “Do you want some broccoli?” Instead ask, “would you rather have broccoli or cauliflower?”
- Keep healthy foods on hand. Your kids will eat what is available. Keep fruit or sliced up veggies out where they can make easy snacks instead of cookies and chips.
- Make the unhealthy foods hard to get. You could completely eliminate candy and other treats from your house, or you could simply store it out of sight in a difficult to reach
location—perhaps store them on the very top shelf of your pantry in the very back, or
downstairs in the food storage closet.
- Make it fun! Set up a nature scene with broccoli as trees, blueberries for the river, orange slices for the birds, and cucumbers for the grass. Another idea is using celery, peanut butter, and raisins to create a popular “ants on a log” snack.
- Don’t give up or get discouraged. Most kids will grow out of their picky eating habits with time.