If you’re a parent, you may find yourself in a tug of war with your kids about food. That includes what you’d like them to try, and what they’ll actually eat. This battle of wills can be frustrating, especially when you’ve exhausted all methods of persuasion.
Bribing picky eaters with dessert isn’t the way to go, either. Treats are okay once in a while, but the idea is to get them used to eating healthier food overall. Having them try healthier choices (many made in a way that they’ve never had before, and might like) is the goal.
Here are some tips to get kids to say “yes” instead of “yuck”:
- Set a routine of creative cooking (and eating!). Start with one night per week.
- Introduce new foods slowly. Pushing too hard to try something will have the opposite effect.
- Adults, try a taste first, then share. (Kids may want to try what mom and dad enjoy.)
- Try food swaps. Instead of iceberg lettuce, swap in other greens. (Mix in new greens together first before trying them solo). Change things up sometimes with veggie burgers instead of beef.
- Make it fun. Chinese takeout (forego fried for steamed), a make-your-own taco night (try chicken or fish), or veggie pizza helps explore cooking cultures.
- Conduct a contest to see what they can do with healthy smoothies or popcorn toppings.
- Dessert rewards send the wrong message that desserts are the better food. That could increase the desire for sweets. Limit desserts to just once or twice a week. Have fruit or yogurt be the norm on other nights.
- Limit distraction (no cell phones, TV, or other screens at the dinner table). Focus on food and family!
Help to make “healthy” foods routine and reduce the amount of “boring” meals. You’ll expand kids’ sense of taste — and adventure!
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano