Having trouble convincing your kids to eat healthy foods? I joined forces with Karen Orlich, CEO of k.o. kidz, a green-lving and organic lifestyle company, to compile some of the best tips (mom and kid tested!) to help you empower your kids to engage in healthy eating. There are too many tips to include in just one post! Stay tuned for more tips in the upcoming weeks!
Tip #1: Encourage and Reinforce
One of the most important factors to children eating well is to ‘encourage and reinforce’.
It’s so easy to let our kids be the boss and give in to demands for hot dogs, pizza, and candy. Instead, stay strong to these ‘requests’ and patiently reply, “You are so lucky that I’m giving you ___ (insert healthy option) today. It has protein and vitamin C to make your muscles strong and skin healthy.” Include whatever health benefit you’d like to highlight from the chosen food. Lean meats=muscle mass, vitamin C=healthy skin, calcium=strong bones, etc.
Take advantage of these opportunities to educate your kid(s) on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ to eat healthy. And, always follow your kid’s first bite of that healthy alternative to greasy, salt or sugar infested, processed food with, “Yah! I love ___!! Can I have the next bite? Please, please, PLEASE!” Once your kids are old enough, they’ll eat well just so they won’t have to endure your theatrics.
Tip #2: Invite Susan to dinner….Lazy Susan that is!
If you want your kids to have interest in healthy eating, you must engage them in healthy eating! So here’s an idea – “Lazy Susan” dinners. The Lazy Susan Dinner requires very little work from the home Chef (YOU!) and encourages kids to engage in mealtime rather than simply letting you be in charge. The goal here is to keep things simple in the kitchen – no need for fancy recipes – and empower your kids to explore flavors.
On the menu? Nothing but WHOLE foods. You’ll simply need to choose a grain, vegetable and protein, plus 5-6 condiments. From there, your kids will be in charge of adding flavor to their food with the condiments you’ve selected. Not only will they have fun doing so, they’ll learn what flavors they like and don’t like.
Step 1 – Choose your ingredients – grain, protein, vegetable and condiments. Here are some ideas:
Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, kasha, amaranth – all are GF! (check out Dr. Weil’s “Cooking with Whole Grains” for more ideas).
Protein: Chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, tofu, tempeh, salmon, black beans, bison, turkey
Vegetables: spinach, collard greens, kale, carrots, onion, snap peas, broccoli, bok choy, green beans, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus (feel free to choose multiple)
Vinegars – apple cider, rice, balsamic
Sauces – hot sauce, gluten-free tamari soy sauce, tomato sauce
Oils – extra virgin olive oil, toasted sesame oil, coconut oil, chili oil
Herbs – cilantro, parsley, mint, basil, thyme
Spices – oregano, tumeric, cumin, curry powder, garlic, ginger, cinnamon
Nuts – pine, brazil, cashews, walnuts, pistachios
Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, ground flax
Other – sea salt, sea vegetables like nori or dulse flakes, mustard, ketchup, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, parmesan cheese, sauerkraut, sliced avocado, fresh minced garlic
Step 2 – Prepare each ingredient.
For the grain, you may prepare it now, or to save time, make a batch ahead of time and simply reheat for dinner. Proteins and vegetables can easily be prepared in sauté pans. Be sure proteins are cooked through to the required temperature.
Step 3 – Prepare a bowl for each family member (each bowl will have 3 layers)
Layer 1: Grain
Layer 2: Vegetable
Layer 3: Protein
Step 4 – Enjoy dinner with Lazy Susan.
Load up the Lazy Susan with the condiments you chose, and put it at the center of the dinner table. Invite family members – including the kids – to dress up their bowls with whatever condiments they would like. The kids will LOVE both spinning the Lazy Susan around AND the freedom you’ve given them to make choices at dinner time. Encourage them to try all of the condiments by giving them a small bowl for taste-testing.