- Schedule theme nights. Mexican, Italian or Asian themed meals are fun and they expose children to other tastes, cuisines and cultures.
- Get them involved. Encourage children to participate in meal planning, shopping and preparation. Let them choose recipes online or from a cookbook. This gives them ownership in the meal and helps avoid fussiness at mealtime. Research and experience tells us that simply telling kids what to eat will not change their food choices; we must show them as well.
- Try one new food every week. This will break your family from the mundane every day tastes and encourage a varied palate.
4. Gather Around the Table
Family meals offer a chance for mom and dad to be role models. During family meals, parents display quality characteristics of healthy relationships and verbiage with food. A Harvard study found that families who eat together are twice as likely to eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day as families who don't eat together. Also, children who eat together with their family gain greater self esteem, a strong feeling of belonging, and increased social and vocabulary skills.
- Children generally eat better when an adult sits with them. Be patient with slow eaters who may become involved in the eating process itself or the social contact with family members.
- Children who have family meals usually fall within a healthy weight range compared to those who eat alone. When conversation is encouraged, eating is mindful and portion size is kept under control.
5. Eat Clean Foods
It is now well established that pesticides pose a risk to young kids because they are still growing. Exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals during critical periods of development can have lasting adverse effects both in early development and later in life.
- Remove foods from your pantry that contain hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sugars. If you are unsure of what an ingredient is, do not purchase the product.
- Purchase organic dairy and meat products. Children who consume products containing growth hormones have an increased risk of maturing at a much younger age than those who eat organically.
6. Encourage Fiber
When kids eat more fiber, they tend to want less fat and sugar. Fiber-rich foods are low in calories and take a long time to digest which means kids stay full longer and don't overeat. Fiber will also keep their blood sugar and insulin levels steady. To figure out how much fiber your little one needs, follow this formula:
Your child's age + five = the number of fiber grams needed each day.
- Remember to gradually increase the higher fiber foods in your children's diet, and at the same time, encourage them to drink plenty of fluids to keep their systems running smoothly.
- Purchase whole grain cereal with 5 grams of fiber or more per serving. The sugar content should always be less than the fiber amount.
- Add ground flax seeds, nuts, seeds and dried fruit to pancakes, muffins, cereals, yogurt parfaits and smoothies.