Recently, Colorado Parent magazine ran a question on Facebook asking: What’s the most surprising healthy food your child will eat. They were flooded with responses, which, itself was surprising, as were the answers. It got me thinking – maybe all of the hype about how badly kids eat is hyped up? Maybe they are doing a little better than we think at eating foods that are good for them and…actually enjoying them! Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Readers reported that their kids willingly eat asparagus, brussels sprouts (that was the most popular response), avocado, salad, “raw spinach eaten like they are potato chips,” beets, cold tofu slices (followed by a frowny face emoticon from Mom), green smoothies, radishes, salmon and red peppers with eggs. Wow! Good for them. Truly!
Wouldn’t we all love to be able to tout the many healthy foods our kids eat? For those of us who can’t (the best I can report is salmon, broccoli, tofu and sweet potatoes from my kids), it made me remember a previous blog I wrote, not long ago, that had some expert suggestions for encouraging kids to eat healthy foods. I think it’s worth offering them up again, here, for this discussion:
- Offer only healthy foods
- Be patient with new foods – it takes offering a food at least 15 times, on average, before a child will even try it. Keep trying.
- Let kids decide how much to eat – they have an inborn ability to regulate how much they need to eat. Help them listen to their bodies.
- Skip bribes! If you dangle dessert as a reward for eating a vegetable, then the vegetable becomes the hurdle to the reward, which you don’t want it to be.
- Instead, reward with praise or a special activity, but NOT food. Keep food in the context it needs to be in.
- Have healthy foods easily accessible – a fruit bowl, a bowl of baby carrots with hummus to dip in. The idea is to make it easy for kids to get the healthy foods.
- Make it fun and interesting – grow a vegetable garden, cut veggies into cute shapes
- Let babies play with their food – it helps them build familiarity with the smells and tastes of healthy food.
- Let kids assemble their lunch, grow food, pick from the garden for dinner. Dayle Hayes told us she would give her children a bowl and send them out to the garden to pick peas for dinner. They’d end up eating them before they even reached the kitchen. Smiling, she would send them back out for tomatoes. She knew this would happen and let it be a way to encourage them to eat veggies.
I’ll turn the tables over to E.A.T. readers now – tell us what healthy foods your kids happily eat? And more importantly, how did you get them to do it?
If you have any healthy-food recipes your kids love that you’d like to share, please do! You can share them via email with Edan Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your name and email and let me know if it’s okay to publish your recipe in an upcoming blog.