Getting your picky eater to make healthy choices and eat healthy foods can be a significant challenge. This is why jumping on the Nutrition Month train is so essential! If you didn’t know, the month of March is Nutrition Month. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsors a fantastic campaign each year. They aim to highlight the importance of healthy food choices while developing sound eating and physical activity habits. And we’d like to help by exploring ten ways to help your child eat healthier, along with four fantastic recipes and a free meal tracker.
Malnutrition and Obesity are genuine threats.
According to Global Nutrition Report, North America is experiencing two extremes: the population is either malnourished or overweight. Furthermore, North America is experiencing severe malnutrition among children under five. The other extreme is that 9.1% of the childhood population is overweight, much higher than the global average of 5.7%. In addition, it’s no surprise that the adult population also struggles with malnutrition and obesity. With 8.7% of men living with diabetes and 6.7% of women. Along with 39.4% of women and 38.3% of men living with obesity.
How can we break the trend?
We all want our children to live healthy and wholesome lives. We should also want that for ourselves. You may feel intimidated by uprooting your family’s go-to menu and switching things up to help your family avoid such things as malnutrition and obesity. And while you may feel overwhelmed, please know that it’s possible! Making small changes to your family’s eating habits will have lasting and impactful results on everyone’s well-being.
Ten ways to help your child eat healthier.
It can be tempting to stick to the meals you know they’ll eat when you have a child constantly saying no to foods, especially new ones. When you gain the courage to get your child to try something new, it can result in a very stressful and frustrating mealtime for the entire family. Let’s try these ten ways to help your child eat healthier first!
1. Remember that food is more than nourishment.
Food has been uniting people since the beginning of time. A family meal can bring us together at the table each day. Additionally, food is almost always the centre of most celebrations! Food is life; food can improve health, keep us well, and prevent disease. Good food is a gift in more ways than one. Helping our children understand the gift of food is an essential first step.
2. Eat together as a family.
We live in a fast-paced world. As a result, we often find ourselves exhausted by the end of the day, which can cause us to gravitate toward the TV for mealtime. While this is ok here and there, it’s essential to sit down together as a family to eat at least one meal a day. According to Stanford Children’s Health, sitting together to eat as a family helps your child handle the stresses of daily life.
3. Involve your children in food prep.
There are many simple tasks that your child can partake in regarding kitchen tasks. Giving your child age-appropriate tasks to help prepare a meal for the family is a good practice. Your child can wash the fruits and vegetables, push buttons on the microwave, get ingredients together, tear lettuce and more. When you involve your child in meal prep, it boosts their interest and curiosity around food. While also setting an example for a healthy lifestyle.
4. Plan meals together.
Give each of your children one day a week when they can help choose a healthy meal for the whole family. Doing this helps reinforce good eating habits while helping them understand the importance of preventing food waste.
5. Give them choices.
Kids are always looking for ways to establish their independence. This is especially true when it comes to food. Like you don’t enjoy being forced to do something, neither do they. Instead of giving them one thing, provide them with a couple of options. When your child chooses between pear slices or apple slices, they get the autonomy they desire. You’re still in control of your child’s nutrition, but they also get a choice. It’s a win-win!
6. Allow your child to make their plate.
Allowing your child to make their plate is another fantastic way to build their independence while keeping them interested in new healthy foods. The results might not be immediate. However, most kids will be much more willing to make healthy food choices when given a choice.
7. Offer healthier snack options.
Kids seem to gravitate to sodium, preservative-filled foods. There’s just something so satisfying about crunching on your favourite snacks. But many times, these traditional snacks that kids love are filled with sugars and ingredients you can’t pronounce. We get it; it’s so easy to hand your child a bag of their favourite goodies. As you can probably imagine, this isn’t the best option for them. Your child’s snacks should be rich in fibre and protein, as this will help keep your child full for longer. Try giving your child healthy snack options to choose from instead.
These can look like this:
- Apple slices with peanut butter.
- A cup of nuts and raisins.
- Veggie sticks with hummus.
- Lightly salted popcorn.
- Hard-boiled eggs.
- Grapes and Kiwi.
- Whole-grain crackers with cheese.
8. Be a good role model.
Who has the most influence on your child’s eating habits? You as their parent. Your attitude towards food and healthy eating habits will affect your child. If you find yourself cringing when eating a particular vegetable, they will too. Additionally, if your go-to snacks aren’t healthy, how could their choices be better? If you choose a can of pop or juice instead of a glass of water. How could we expect them to choose differently? Always remember you are the most outstanding example for your child.
9. Always offer but don’t force it.
I understand that offering your child healthy snacks or meal options can feel pointless when you know they will still gravitate to less healthy options. Don’t give up! Keep offering. If you’re making your child’s plate for them, still add the vegetables they don’t like. Alternatively, if they’re making their plate, advise them to choose at least one protein and one vegetable for their dish. Always be sure to offer healthy options for your child. However, be cautious that you never force or battle over food. This can cause them to have a greater aversion, and the dislike becomes a more significant issue.
10. Don’t give up.
Getting your child to make healthy food choices can ultimately feel overwhelming, especially if you have a picky eater. Don’t become discouraged; you’re doing an excellent job helping your child make the best choices. The easy road would be to hand your child the snacks they want and avoid offering them the healthy snacks they dislike. But the easy road never leads to anything significant. Don’t give up! Keep offering, keep trying, and keep offering.
This free meal tracker is a bonus to the ten ways to help your child eat healthier!
Sometimes kids love to track what they are doing and eating; try out this FREE Meal Tracker downloadable pdf. To encourage healthy eating habits and adequate water intake throughout the week! Print and go!
Four fantastic recipes to get you started.
We hope that the ten ways to help your child eat healthier were helpful for you. You can get creative with mealtime by adding unique meal ideas to your meal plan to help your kids enjoy their food. Try out these four amazing recipes:
Lentil Meatloaf Cups
These delicious Lentil Meatloaf Cups by She Likes Food are perfectly paired with mashed or roasted potatoes.
- 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, dry
- 3 cups vegetable broth or water
- One teaspoon of olive oil
- 1 cup small-diced carrot
- 1 cup small-diced celery
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
- One clove of garlic, minced
- One teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme
- 1/3 cup bread crumbs, gluten-free if necessary
- One tablespoon of ketchup, plus more for the top
- One flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax mixed with 2 1/2 tbsp water, let sit for 2–3 minutes)
- Two tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Cooking spray
Broccoli Cheesy Bread
This fantastic recipe boasts that even the pickiest eaters can’t resist it.
- 3 cups riced broccoli
- One large egg
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
- Two cloves of minced garlic
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tsp. freshly chopped parsley
- Warmed marinara for serving.
Gnocchi Chicken Skillet
If you’re looking for an easy, wholesome dinner in a hurry, this is it! Just throw it together, prep a salad and go!
- One package (16 ounces) of potato gnocchi
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1/2 chopped onion
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 jar (26oz) spaghetti sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Shredded Parmesan Cheese
This meal is simple, filling, quick and nutritious. And most of the ingredients can be found in your pantry!
- 6 oz. egg noodles
- 2 (4oz) cans of tuna in water
- One tablespoon of canola oil
- One small onion, diced
- Two stalks of celery, diced
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 2 (10oz) cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup frozen peas