Have you ever bribed your child to eat her broccoli? Or pleaded with him to eat his peas? It seems that most three- and four-year-olds don’t naturally love turnips, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. This fact, of course, can lead to problems at the dinner table.
Over the years I have had many people ask me, “How did you get your children to eat so well?” So I’m sharing a few of my secrets (I’ll share more later) for changing veggie status from enemy to friend.
The first things you can do is get the junk food out of the house. If you don’t keep junk food in the house, your child will be much less likely to ask for it, because it’s simply not an option. Stock the pantry and frig with lots of healthy choices.
In a recent study, researchers found that children ate more fruits and vegetables when they were … offered more fruits and vegetables! It can be that simple!
Which brings us to the second tip …
Offer healthy foods.
Even if you know that your child doesn’t like a particular food, offer it anyway – as if you’re sure he’ll want it. If he says no, that’s OK; someday he may say yes.
Children’s tastes do change, but we don’t give that opportunity if we don’t offer the food.
Never mention the child’s likes and dislikes in front of the child. Kids catch on quickly and if you are positive and don’t talk about his or her dislikes, soon your child may not either.
Eat healthy yourself. According to research, one of the most successful methods for encouraging kids to eat healthfully is role modeling.
Eat on schedule. Research also shows that children who eat meals on a regular schedule are more likely to enjoy vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Avoid snacks. I know this goes against what we often hear, but the truth is that no matter how healthy the snack is, eating in between meals is not only a burden and strain on the digestive system and the endocrine system, but it tends to lessen the appetite for nourishing food at mealtime.
Limit TV time.
Research clearly shows that the more media children consume, the more junk food they consume as well – both in front of the TV and when away from the set. It’s hard to tell your kids, “No, you can’t have that crunch and smack snack bar” when they are bombarded with media messages that this is THE food to eat!
Make the dinner table the no-pressure zone.
Ironically, the best way to get a child to eat is to not try to get the child to eat. The concept of “the greater the persistence, the greater the resistance” is, more often than not, an issue here.
Simply serve the meal with at least a couple healthy and tasty options and then relax, allowing your child to choose to eat or not. Don’t offer to substitute an alternative when your child refuses to eat what is served. And don’t offer a snack later.
And, as difficult as it may be, don’t stress if it doesn’t seem like your child isn’t getting enough to eat. Contrary to what many parents fear, a child will not starve himself if he has reasonable options available to him.
If your child does not eat in between meals and does not fill up on junk food, then he or she will eat as much as he or she needs – without your pleading.
And finally, take the time to talk to your child about why healthy food is good for our bodies. Children are smart and an appreciation for healthful foods is something that can be learned. Education can make a big difference.
It takes effort to help your child learn good habits, but it’s so very worth it.