14 tricks to getting kids to eat healthy fruit and vegetables, when they refuse.
As a parent your child's health is of great importance to you, one of the major contributors to a child's healthy development, alongside play, education and exercise is of course a varied diet. One which includes, calcium, iron, omega 3, as well as many different fruit and vegetables. Like any parent you want your child to be a happy individual, who eats healthily and has a good positive, attitude to their diet.
However even though you know that fruit and vegetables are vital elements of a good diet because they contain a plethora of vitamins and minerals. All hugely beneficial to their growth, progression as well as general well being and you only want whats best for them. You'll also know that your child or children don't always seem to agree with you or understand this. They either refuse point blank to eat any fruit or vegetables at all, or what fruit and vegetables they do eat come down to a very selective few and are rather disappointingly not eaten often enough. This is a problem facing many parents today, making meal times a frustrating and stressful time, with neither parent or child finding it the enjoyable activity that it should be.
Thankfully when we look at why more parents are struggling with this problem and what lies behind children's current issues with food, we can also work out viable solutions.
Why is this an increasing problem?
One of the reasons for children's increasing aversions to food, their attitude of distaste and food preference rigidity comes down to the influence of advertising. Children are conditioned very early on through the medium of television especially, what food is good to eat, familiar and what is projected to seem more appealing. Look at any fast food chain, chocolate or sweets advertisement aimed at children, it has bright colours, big sounds, cute friendly characters and catchy phrases that stay with a child. All these messages and associations are then reinforced every time they see and hear them. For every one time you ask them to eat their fruit and vegetables, they have seen an advertisement for fast food and sweets, any number of times more.
Another is parenting techniques, it's confusing to be a parent in today's society. We are bombarded with conflicting advice every day. From the media, from your own parents, from books and your friends, which makes even harder work of parenting. You don't want to be too much of a disciplinarian or harsh with your child, because you don't want to leave them with any lasting damage, or issues later on in life, hating you or is deemed an inappropriate reprimand. But then you don't want to be too soft or easy going either because you don't want you child or children to grow up spoilt little brats, with no respect and walk all over you. It's a delicate balancing act.
Other children's attitudes to food will also influence how your child views particular foods, which makes it harder to reinforce your stance at home, peer pressure is something your child will increasingly experience more of as they get older.
This may all sound very familiar to you and something you have to contend with on a daily basis, but don't despair just yet. There are in fact many ways you can approach and combat these problems, here are fourteen of the best.
Lead by example.
Your child has been learning from you since the day they were born, by observing you and the world around them, they learn by the example set by those they see, in all kinds of ways, for all kinds of things. Like how to walk and talk. How to behave, count, dress and all the other many things we need to equipt ourselves with, in order to deal with life as we grow older.
What you do they do, what are you teaching them about food and diet, by what they see from your eating habits? If your children see you regularly enjoying eating fruit and vegetables, this will encourage them to do the same.
All for one and one for all.
The home is not a restaurant, people live busy lives and trying to cater for your families food preferences individually every evening is stressful, wasteful and ultimately unnecessary.
If everyone in the family eats the same meal at the same time, you get a much better idea of what your child is eating. Or indeed not eating as the case maybe. If you are eating healthy meals most of the time and they are eating junk food, keeping an eye on what there diet really involves becomes all that more difficult.
Start as you mean to go on.
The earlier you start to introduce new varieties of different foods into your child's diet, the less unusual, alien and scary they will appear later on. Making it far easier to to get them to eat a wide range of fruit and vegetables as they get older.
But it's never too late, to encourage your child to eat healthier food and even teenagers can be coaxed into better dietary habits.
Leave it at the supermarket.
By removing the temptation of indulging on processed, fatty food, sugary drinks and snacks, will encourage your children to eat healthier alternatives.
When a child is old enough to make their own choices about the food they eat, and start to raid the kitchen. When presented with the option of fruit or chocolate, chocolate will inevitably be the preferred choice. However if the only snacks available are healthy ones, then that's what they will end up eating.
Try, try and try again.
Every so often re-introduce food that has been previously dismissed by a child. What might have been untouched one week, may turn out to be flavour of the month, the next.
I didn't like tomatoes as a child and thought I never would, they just never seemed to appeal to my pallet. Whole, raw tomatoes I still can't eat and I also tried tomato soup which again I found it wasn't to my taste. Yet undeterred I finally came to appreciate them in the form of tomato puree, which is one of my favourite kitchen staples. I also enjoy them in sauces, ketchup and tinned.
Sometimes it's not the taste they don't like but the texture, mix it up a little and don't be afraid to try new things.
Just add fruit.
You can add fruit to all kinds of foods that kids enjoy already, like jelly, ice cream, cereal, yogurt and home made ice lollies. They will be eating healthier with out even noticing.
All the colours of the rainbow.
Colourful plates, cutlery, cups and food, all make a meal or snack instantly more appealing. It's no secret that kids love bright colours and food that's presented as colourful, is seen by children as more fun. Take a tip from the advertisers and use there tactics to your advantage.
Meet and eat.
Eat together as a family around the table, this tradition seems to have been lost, which is a shame, it makes a meal so much more enjoyable.
Put the emphasis on conversation, it will distract from the issue of food and whats on their plate. It will also enable you to see exactly what they do and don't eat. Again you will also be able to set them a good example, by showing them what you eat and demonstrating just how good healthy food tastes.
Make them a kitchen assistant.
Most children love to cook and bake, when given the opportunity. By getting them involved with the cooking and food preparation process, they become more familiar and comfortable with whats on offer. They also love to eat there own creations.
Stop banging on about it.
You can only hear about something so many times before it becomes tiresome, this is especially true for children. If all they associate healthy eating with is negative nagging, then any interest they did have will soon be lost and anything you say about it in the future, will fall on deaf ears, they just won't want to hear about it.
Visible and familiar.
Put fruit and vegetables around the house where the children will see them and be able to familiarise themselves with them. Put a bowl full of fruit on the coffee table, you never know the children may even try some.
A lot of choice, is a lot of bother.
As the parent you know best and your in charge even though sometimes it doesn't feel like that, try to bare this in mind.
Don't give the children meal options because nine times out of ten, they will go for the least healthy choice. They will usually stick to a few favourites and rarely try anything new. If you are the chef of the house, you decide what the meal will be and leave it at that. There maybe a bit of a backlash from the kids at first, but stick with it they will soon get over it.
Just say no.
It's OK to say no and you do not have to make another meal. If there is something on their plate that they really don't like, tell them to leave it and eat the rest. If they refuse to eat even a bite, don't back down just put the meal aside, they will eat it later when their hungry enough and they realise that there is not going to be an alternative made available.
When they try something new or different and eat all that they are given, praise them. Positive reinforcement is a great motivation tool for children.
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