We want our kids to be healthy and eat real food but modern family life does not always make that easy. Life is busy and healthy foods are not always the foods your kids want to eat. As a mom of four kids ages 3-19, I understand it can be a challenge to raise kids who enjoy eating real food. Over the last few years we have transitioned to a mostly Real Food diet and learned some key lessons along the way. Today I am sharing my tips for raising real food eaters.
Empower and Involve your Kids
Kids love to have the power to make their own decisions, even when it comes to food. As a parent you can help make healthy choices easy by filling your fridge and pantry with real food. Have bins of quickly accessible healthy snacks in your pantry and fridge so that kids can help themselves throughout the day. Place a basket of whole fruit on the counter and keep cut up fruits and veggies at eye level in the fridge to encourage the whole family to eat more produce.
I have found that if kids help pick it, grow it or make it they are more likely to eat it. Since real food often requires a little more prep work involving your kids can be a win-win. Even small children can help with tasks like washing, pouring ingredients, stirring or pushing the buttons on the blender or food processor. My toddlers have loved to press the blender button to make our Green Smoothies. As a parent it can require a little extra patience (or clean up) to have your kids help but when you see how excited they are to eat their creation it is worth it!
Discover how Food Grows
Teaching your kids about where food comes from can help them get more excited and interested in trying real food. Planting a garden is a great way to help kids connect with real food. If you have a black thumb and live in the desert like me, you can do something simple like small pots of herbs in your kitchen. Shopping at farmers markets, visiting a community garden, joining a CSA or going to a pick it yourself farms are all options to help discover how food is created. Social media can be a great way to discover and follow family farms and introduce your family virtually to how animals are raised or plants grow. My kids love to look at posts from a small family farm in Texas that I discovered on Instagram.
Be a Positive Role Model
Ever noticed that your child will eat just about anything if it is on YOUR plate, instead of theirs? Kids watch what you eat and will follow your lead. Have a positive attitude about healthy eating and be willing to try new foods. Focus on the benefits of fueling and nourishing our bodies with healthy real food. Make choosing real foods a positive experience by focusing on increasing healthy food choices instead of talking about what they cannot or should not eat. Show them balance and moderation. Don’t let food become a power struggle or a source of guilt in your family, always put relationships first.
Make it Fun and Be Flexible
You also don’t need to spend hours creating food art to make it fun for kids. Simple tricks like using cookie cutters to cut fruit or serving salad on a stick instead in a bowl can make real food more fun for kids. My kids love making our own fruit or yogurt popsicle during the summer and you can find all sorts of fun molds. Talk about eating the rainbow and how foods can help them grow and have fun.
Along with fun it’s important to be flexible. Every child is different and it can take 8-10 times before a child is willing to try a new food so don’t get discouraged the first time your child says no to broccoli. Instead keep serving him the “green trees” and you might be surprised when he finally does like it. I have one son who loves smoothies, as long as they aren’t green. Our smoothies always have lots of greens, I just make sure to add enough berries to get the right color. Another son would much rather have fresh juice instead of a smoothie. Another child will not touch cooked peas but loves them frozen. I cook and serve one family meal, but try to have variety in our weekly meal plan to ensure different kids get options they like regularly while also being offered new foods options.
What are your tips and tricks for helping your kids choose real food? I’d love to hear.
Rebs Garcia is a Healthy Living Mentor and Weight Loss Coach. She helps you get off the diet roller-coaster and use simple Healthy Habits to create lasting lifestyle change. Rebs’ passion for helping others comes from her personal experience of losing 100 lbs and finally overcoming her lifelong battle with obesity. Rebs is a wife and mama of four kids living in sun-drenched Las Vegas.