How to Get Your Kids and Family to Eat Healthy Foods

It is no secret that the world is facing a food epidemic. There are more overweight and obese children and adults than ever before. But beyond that, there are so many other concerns that are tied into the food epidemic that need to be addressed and every one of us is responsible to ourselves and our families to understand better what we are putting into our mouths and work on putting the right foods into our bodies. I hear parents complain all of the time, “my child will not eat this veggie or that fruit,” or “my child is so picky, she will only eat a few foods.” I think those comments are just ways to get out of making food an important part of our lives. I have 3 young children and I know that it does take work to keep my kids trying new foods and embracing healthy choices but with a little knowledge, the right groceries and the right dialogue we can eat healthier and our kids will grow up making healthier choices for themselves. I believe everyone needs to eat better, no matter your age, and that the younger we start serving our kids healthy food and talking about the importance of healthy food the easier and healthier it is for our kids. Here are my recommendations for getting your family to eat healthy. 1. Understand why you need to eat vegetables, fruits, healthy protein, grains, etc… 2. Start thinking about food from the right perspective. I am eating these veggies or fruit, because it fuels my body, it strengthens my body; it helps my body work well and helps my brain function and makes me smarter. 3. Start talking out loud, to your family, about the benefits of a healthy snack or healthy vegetable or meal. All day long in my house we talk about and use these words to describe foods: "It is healthy, it is good for your body, it helps you grow big and strong, it helps you see better, have energy, etc." 4. Limit the Amount of Fast Food or Prepared Meals 4. Limit the Amount of Fast Food or Prepared Meals I am not saying there is not a place for an occasional treat or opportunity to go out for ice cream. What I am saying is you have to lay the groundwork for yourself and your family to eat the foods your body needs every day. In regards to Fast Food, stop eating it on a regular basis. Most of it is very unhealthy. If you do need to occasionally eat at a fast food restaurant or any restaurant, research ahead of time what items are fairly healthy and always stick to those items for yourself and your kids. For examples, I occasionally eat at Chick-Fil-A and I always order the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich (it has a whole wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, no sauce and it is high in protein and low in fat, although a little high in sodium. If there is not a Chick-Fil-A around I may go to McDonald’s. They have several healthy salad options (just choose your dressing wisely) or the Grilled Snack Wrap is only 9grams of Fat, so one of those will usually work well for me. For my kids, I order a snack wrap or a 4 piece nuggets (not the best, but ok when paired with fruit option and low fat milk). Most restaurant sites and fast food restaurants publish the nutritional information on their websites or go to www.calories.net or a similar site where you can search for the nutritional information on food you may get from the grocery store or a fast food or chain restaurant. Get your kids involved in your meals. Let them help make dinner Let them help make their lunch. Let them pick out a new fruit or veggie to try while grocery shopping. Let them help assemble a healthy, but fun, meal. Even my 3 year old helps put sauce, the veggies and lowfat cheese on a whole wheat pizza crust. Let your child help come up with fun dinner ideas- like lets eat yellow and green veggies and fruits today (banana, salad, pepper, grapefruit, etc…) Try to take your kids on some food-related field trips. Take them to a farm or farmer’s market one afternoon or weekend. Let them discover their own new, favorite fruit or vegetable. Have your Kids Try a New Food< Don’t give in- be positive, talk about how much you like eating the fruit, vegetables, and other healthy foods. I request my children take one bite of a food but that is all. Usually they like the food but not always. And I keep trying to give it to them but I may introduce it mixed in with something or prepared differently the next time. For example, my 5 year old son said he did not like peppers that were on the pizza. I told him to try one small piece of pepper. He ended up liking them so much, he asked for extras and asked for peppers every night. Now that same son does not like apples. But he likes almost every other fruit I give him so I do not push the apples. I do request he try a bite of an apple every once in a while so when he is ready to eat it he realizes they are tasty. All of my kids love salad. In my house it is usually baby spinach leaves. As long as it has a tasty dressing on it, or with it, they will eat the salad. Most days my kids have spinach salad at either lunch or dinner or both meals. Even my 16-month-old son has started eating the spinach from my plate. Why? Because he sees everyone eating it and wants to eat what we are eating. If you are not eating healthy fruits and vegetables, and making it fun, your kids will not want to eat them. I am not saying the first time you try to offer something it will always be a success or that your kids will eat all of their fruits and veggies. But if you get them involved and give them a choice of 2 different veggies and 2 different fruits (before you prepare it), then I make the one they choose. I do not let them chose every time but I do for most meals because it is more important for me to get them to eat fruits and veggies than trying to control what they are eating. Of course, I do serve only 1 main dish for everyone but I do feel offering choices helps them to enjoy fruits and veggies. Sometimes I tell them we are having asparagus, or salad, because that is what we have or need to use but usually those are the fruits and veggies I know everyone likes and it is not a problem. Avoid kid-favorite foods that are prepackaged as much as possible. Okay, as far as I know, the well-known brands of frozen chicken nuggets and pizza are not very healthy choices for your kids. Believe me, my kids love chicken nuggets as much as the next kid but I do not serve them regularly. Instead, I pick foods they really enjoy that are super healthy and even easy. Cedar Farms makes these amazing bean burritos that are super-low in fat, high in protein and fiber, even dairy free. They can be microwaved and everyone in my family loves them. I do, as well as my 1 ½ year old, 3 year old, 5 year old and husband. They make a perfect meal when paired with a fruit and salad. I also make wraps quite often. I put in many combinations. But, basically, always have low-fat whole wheat wraps/burrito tortillas on hand. The ones I buy are only 2 grams of fat and 110 calories for the tortilla. In it, I put seasoned, cut-up, cooked chicken or vegetarian refried beans, lettuce, cut-up veggies, a little low-fat cheese and a little low-fat dressing (honey mustard, or some other type). My kids eat these up. Read up on food and Pay Attention to the Health Headlines 1.Did you know there are some concerns about microwave popcorn, about an additive, diacetyl, when heated in the microwave, that gives off dangerous fumes? 2.Are you aware that food manufacturers do not have to list over 200 additives or ingredients on the food labels- I think that is out right deceitful and they should be required to list every single thing on the label or what is the point of having labels? 3.How about transfat- did you know a manufacturer can say no transfat per serving if it is under a certain amount of transfats?- but if you eat a serving and a half or 2 serving it would be enough to mention? In other words some foods still have transfats but are tricking you with their wording- no trans fat per serving usually means there is still transfat but in small quantities. 4. Chicken Nuggets 5. French Fries 6. Pizza 7. Take Out Food Epidemic Healthy Eating for your kids and family Obesity Epidemic 10 tips for how to eat right