Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Can I Get My Kids to Eat Healthy!?

It was VERY challenging (and still is) to get my boys to practice healthy eating habits.  My oldest son was and is a picky eater.  So picky, that when he was a toddler, he was diagnosed as "failure to thrive" because he was underweight.  He survived on Boost shakes and Orzo pasta. He always loved sugary snacks and foods though and he easily could have gained the necessary weight by indulging in high sugar and high fat foods regularly.  However, I knew in the long run that it would hurt him.  So, as parents we stuck to our guns and helped foster and encourage healthy eating habits.  Both of our boys LOVE junk food (what kids don't) and we do let them have it in moderation.  If we cut all junk out of their diet, there is a good chance as they get older they may end up having a negative relationship with food.  So, we let them have soda once per week and ice cream or a cookie almost every night IF they at least try everything I serve for dinner.  The secret is giving them the choice.  I never force them to eat something they don't want to eat and I never make them sit at the table until their plate is clear.  What I do, is give them CHOICES.  For instance, we had Lima beans last night.  Yes, that's right, I tortured my kids with the dreaded Lima beans.  They did NOT want to eat them.  I told them they did not HAVE to eat them.  However, if they wanted a Girl Scout Cookie after dinner then they would at least have to try them.  So, they had a CHOICE.  They both chose to take a few bites of Lima beans so they could have their cookie.  Neither one of them liked the Lima beans, but at least they tried them.  Choices have worked great in my household.  Don't get me's still a struggle, but we have to work on our kids when they are young to instill healthy eating habits.  Here are some simple tips that work for us:

1.  switch sugary cereals with more nutrient-dense, lower sugar cereals. Dry cereal can be a great, healthy snack instead of Cheese It's or chips.   Here is one of my kids favorites:

2.  Trade in the white bread for whole wheat bread.  Whole grain breads are much more nutrient-dense.  They may not like it at first, but keep on trying!

3.   Pack them well-balanced, protein-rich healthy snacks/lunches for school!  Great choices are;  cheese sticks, yogurts, turkey/cheese roll-ups, cheese and Triscuit crackers, nuts and peanut butter (watch the nut allergies though)

4.  Change up those sugary juices and drinks for plain old water.  We limit to once per week of soda or juice and the rest of the time it's milk or water. 

5.  Eat dinner together most nights.  I know it's tough with the crazy schedules we all have.  However, studies show that families that eat together, are healthier families!  Stopping at fast-food drive-thrus for burgers and fries on your way to soccer, defeats the purpose of soccer and exercise!  Take time to COOK for your family. Yes, it takes sacrifice and planning, but it's worth it!  We also hear LOTS of stuff that goes on at school and on the bus when we are sitting around the dinner table chatting as a family.  We eat together EVERY night.  I know it will get harder as the boys get older, but for now we cherish that time as a family and clear our evening schedules so it can happen.

Have a great day everyone!

1 comment:

  1. Melissa,
    As a Mom of three, I have made it a priority to eat dinner together, too - and it has not been easy. I have a picky eater also, and that struggle has been one that we recently made some great strides with. First of all, just getting everyone to SIT and have dinner was often challenging. So about 15 minutes before we do, I ask the kids to do 100 jumping jacks, or try to do as many push ups as they can, or see if they can go up and down the stairs 20 times before it is time to sit. A little energy burning helps with the sitting at dinner. Then, our friend Barbara, suggested lighting a candle on the table to signify 'something special' and to put on a little jazz or classical music - something relaxing. We all agreed to three "codes of conduct" for dinner. We speak kindly to each other without ANY potty words (ugh), we stay in our seats, and we TRY everything on our plate - at least one bite. If you don't like what is being served, you may have any leftovers in the fridge or make yourself a PB&J (whole wheat or multigrain bread, low sugar jelly and natural peanut butter). We have had one solid week of success!! And trying to wrangle a 10, 7 and 4 year old can make me crazy, but this seems to be resonating with them. AND they are learning about different music - Beethoven, Diana Krall, Frank Sinatra, George Winston - it has been fantastic! You are doing great with your blog!! Keep it up!!