How to Get Your Family to Be Healthy Eaters
If only family dinners really played out like the peaceful scenes portrayed in stock pics, right? But let’s be honest: It rarely does. Because instead of staring happily at their piles of leaves and carrots, real-life kids voice their opinions. And when it comes to things like broccoli and spinach, those opinions can be harsh.
So what is a health-conscious running mom to do? Throw in the towel and concede to a diet of fish fingers and fries? Or keep on fighting the good fight, turning every mealtime into a struggle? Take heart, dear moms, there’s hope. Here are some tips and tricks for getting even the fussiest eaters to change their ways. And yes, they’ve been tested on some of the fussiest eaters of all.
Tips for getting young kids to eat healthy
Ah, fussy little people. Enough to drive even the most mild-tempered mom up the walls, right? Because who has time to prepare warm and hearty family meals, just to have it snubbed by little ones preferring a life fueled by toast and tea? No-one. So do yourself a favor, and try some of the following:
- Set a good example. This goes without saying. And by this, we don’t mean that you should eat a single broccoli floret once a fortnight. No. Make fruits and veggies an enjoyable and celebrated part of your daily life. Start your day off with a nourishing, natural green smoothie and show (and tell) your family how good it makes you feel. Enjoy a fruit for morning tea and explain to your kids how its micronutrients will help keep you strong and healthy. And make a point of reminding your kids that a warm and hearty home-cooked dinner will nourish their bodies and help them to grow big and strong.
- Start them young. Waiting until your kids enter pre-school to introduce them to a wide variety of fruits and veggies is bound to backfire. So make an effort to introduce such variety from a very early age. Introduce them to age-appropriate fruit and veggies with different textures, colors and taste profiles as soon as they start eating solid foods. And then keep it up for life.
- Don’t fall into the trap of making separate, “kid-friendly” meals. There is absolutely no reason why toddlers and school-aged kids need separate, “kid-friendly” meals. As long as your meals aren’t bursting with chilies, your kids should be perfectly able to handle normal, home-cooked meals in age-appropriate portions.
- Be sneaky. Does the sight of a cooked carrot make your child wail? Then get sneaky and finely grate some carrot into Grandma’s famous family lasagna. And, while you’re at it, grate in a zucchini and some butternut squash too. They’ll never even know it’s there.
- Get creative with gadgets. This is a goody. My uber-fussy eater refused to put his lips to a green smoothie until I invested in a stainless steel straw. Now that same smoothie, packed with things like spinach, kale, cucumber, and celery, gets slurped up enthusiastically every, single morning. And on days when the straw doesn’t do the trick? I pour the smoothie into a tiny shot glass. It works every time. And the best part? He hasn’t been sick all year.
- Keep trying. Frustrating as it may be, it’s important to keep on trying. Try out a wide variety of produce cooked in a variety of ways until you find meals and combinations that the family approves. Also clearly communicate the message that wailing and flailing will not deter you. Properly nourishing your family is a huge responsibility – tell them that you take it seriously and that you have their best interest at heart.
Tips for getting fussy spouses to eat healthy
And for those of you with fussy spouses, we know that the battle can be even harder. But, once again, the secret lies in not giving up:
- Live by example. The mom of the house’s example can be a very powerful one. So eat your veggies, drink your smoothies and keep on living your best life. Your partner is sure to want more of what you have sooner or later.
- Give existing family favorites a makeover. Is your partner a die-hard spaghetti bolognese fan? Then slowly, over time, tweak his favorite recipe to be more healthy. Grate in a veggie. Make a homemade sauce. Switch to whole grain pasta. One or two small, subtle changes at a time are sure to go unnoticed and will give you bigger peace of mind.
- Don’t buy junk. As the mom of the house, you’re most probably also the main grocery shopper. So make sure that you stock the kitchen cupboards with nourishing foods and snacks instead of junk. Not only will this put you in a position to cook healthy, wholesome meals without additives, preservatives, and junk, but it will also put your partner in a position to make better choices when it comes to snacking.
Fight the good fight, but don’t be a pain
And while nourishing your family to the best of your ability certainly is an important responsibility, try not to be a pain about it. Family mealtimes should be a time of togetherness and enjoying each other’s company; not one filled with stress and resentment. So do what you can do, and don’t obsess about the rest. Celebrate the victories (even if it’s just two bites of cauliflower), explain the value of nutrients (without being obsessive about it) and occasionally have and enjoy some treats together as a family.
Food and family are and should be two of the biggest joys of life – treat and celebrate both accordingly!