Parents, have these thoughts ever run through your mind?
- I wish my child (or children) had better eating habits.
- I wonder how my child’s (or children’s) eating habits will, or will not, impact their future healthfulness?
Chances are these thoughts have crossed your mind at least once or twice.
As a dietitian, I often wonder where kids are getting their nutrition information. Parents are busy and the Internet is scary. As a mother of five children, I too worry about my children’s eating habits and their health. I pack them lunch and wonder if they trade it on the bus for things that they know I wish they were not eating. I wonder whether they are buying items at school that I don’t want them to eat – and not telling me about. At the end of the day, I try not to worry too much, or at least not make my worry known because I have learned that my own kids love to gravitate to the exact thing that I am trying so hard to steer them clear of.
Sigh. So what do you do? Personal and professional experience has taught me that the best way to get kids to eat a healthy diet is to get them involved in the food selection and cooking process. Now, this does not necessarily mean that within hours or days they will be eating these foods. What it does mean is that they will be getting familiar with new foods – and getting familiar with new foods is the first step to them making those foods a part of their regular diet. New habit becomes old habit. Believe it or not I have seen a child go from “picky eater” to adventurous eater (and I am talking fish, tomatillos, and avocados) in just four weeks.
Here’s how you can do this at home:
- Bring home a new food item for the family meal. Try what’s in season now: winter squash (rich in Vitamin A), sweet potatoes (full of fiber, vitamin A, and potassium), cauliflower (packed with vitamins A, C and K as well as B-vitamins), and clementines (bursting with vitamin C and fiber). Salmon is a great protein choice, packed with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Next, choose a recipe together. Kids Eat Right is a great place to find one.
- Get cooking!
- Eat together as a family.
Kim Evans, MS, RD, is a clinical dietitian for the UVM Medical Center’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.