Getting your child to eat healthy without turning into " Food Police"

“Food Police at home” is the general term for parents, caregivers who NAG kids into eating healthy. While parenting does require guiding children into making the right choices which include food choices….becoming slightly obsessive about healthy food choices may make you a “Food Police”. Have you ever heard someone say “if you don’t finish your broccoli, you’re not getting up” or “you won’t get your treat until you’ve finished every crumb on your plate.” Sounds familiar? I have been guilty of playing food police. Both my kids have been fussy eaters and my youngest child at eight is still a fussy eater. Arghhh… the child can drive me nuts with her “maybe I can eat that instead” and it is so much easier to use my parental authority to “get the food down” but since this is my second child and I am older and wiser.. I don’t do that. My youngest counts “edamame” as one of her favorite foods.

 Problems with being a “Food Police” are:

  • Child can get an aversion to “that” food. If you ever notice,  the foods you don’t eat as an adult are often associated with foods you were forced to eat as kids.
  • Overfeeding can  lead to problems of overweight in children.
  • Stressing healthy eating against the child’s will can lead to “Binge Junk Food” eating when children are in places other than home. It took me just a little time to figure out why my oldest, when she was little would run for the iced donuts at the Hospitality table every Sunday.

 I am going to share some of my “Tested and True” tips on getting kids to eat healthy without turning into a “Food Police”. 

  •  Let kids help with the cooking. My 8 yr old  will eat even slightly burnt “oatmeal cookies” because she helped make them and my 13 year old  proudly takes my healthy version of banana bread to school to share with friends because she made it.
  • Make Healthy Food FUN !! The classic “ants on a log” will get most children to eat celery and a fun dip will make raw veggies go down quicker. Fuit kebabs with cheese cubes make eating fruit and cheese a pretty pleasure !
Ants on a log
  • Create a balance. Caramel dip is not that bad considering it’s going to be eaten with raw apples and a little chocolate syrup makes milk so much yummier.
  • Consider snacks like fruit leather as an alternative to fruit roll ups. They taste just as yummy without the added sugar and kids love it.
  • Read labels with your kids. Most snacks including chips and cookies have healthier versions and teaching a child to read labels while shopping or at home could be a positive, fun activity.
  • Be Smart about sneaking healthy foods into their meal. Example -my kids are not very fond of veggies… but they love fruit so every time I make fruit smoothies, I sneak in some carrot and spinach and they don’t even know. I  sneak some flax oil into their chocolate milk smoothie and it is not noticed. The trick is to make the “super healthy ingredient” just blend in. You have to taste and test.
  • Know their favorite foods and make  healthy versions of them. My kids love pasta sauce, so I make sure we have whole grain pasta and they will eat it since they love the sauce. Another sneaky trick that they don’t have a clue about is that I add pureed carrots and beets to my homemade pasta sauce. Well they’ll probably know now ..since they do read my blogs .. but did want to share this tip.
  • Consider getting some colorful ‘child friendly’ utensils that would appeal to kids. Plain cream mac and cheese would look so appealing on a red or brown plate. My favorite places to shop for kid friendly utensils are Dollar Stores, Ikea and Target.

Just go easy on your kids and yourself.. make mealtimes a pleasant experience and if your child does not feel hungry… Do Not Stress!! Kids have this amazing ability to store food for energy that they can expend later. When they are hungry they will come to you… so make sure you have healthy snacks around in case it’s not ‘meal time’ and do teach them that Healthy Eating can be fun!

Cute Cupid Sandwich – For directions – click on link

If you have tips to share on making healthy meals fun  for kids, do share… would love to hear from you.

Directions to make Cupid, Cupig Sandwich

About Sunithi Selvaraj, RD

Registered Dietitian with a sweet tooth and a passion for eating healthy ( quite a combo) Nutrition Geek, Healthy Nut.........


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