Being a mom of 2 kids, ages (almost) 3 and 4 – I constantly feel like I am a short order cook. Literally…he doesn’t like vegetables, she doesn’t eat meat…He likes bananas, she won’t touch an egg. They are picky eaters and the frustration is REAL when it comes to meal time. Sure, we have about 5 things we rotate for them because that’s all they eat – but sometimes it helps to push them out of their comfort zone a little! Do I get push back? Many times, yes. BUT…if I don’t try – they would never try anything new! Here are 7 easy tips to help expand their little palates and keep them eating healthy:
1. Add one new thing to their plate each meal!
Sure – familiarity is good. We like to use the plates that have dividers for a main dish and 2 sides. What I try to do most nights is have a main dish they are comfortable with – one side I know they will eat and the other side is something new! Do they have to finish their whole serving? No – but if they taste it – they might love it and devour it! And if not – at least these picky eaters tasted something new!
2. Kids LOVE to help cook!
They love just holding the kitchen utensils like the spatula or large spoon. Let them help create their meals! Even if it’s just pouring a box of pasta in a pot – pressing a button on the stove with your help – sprinkling some spices in a bowl – stirring up a pot of soup – tossing in some carrots – etc. Having them feel included in the meal prep will get them more excited to try new things because they helped make it!
3. Get creative with their plate!
Sounds silly? Well, it kind of is. Obviously as kids get older from being babies, feeding them like an airplane is flying into their mouth doesn’t always cut it at age 4 – but making their plate look FUN and inviting is always a plus! Try and make funny faces or create one of their favorite things! Get fun cookie cutters and use different colors and textures for your “art”! We make hummus funny face toast all of the time! Use shredded carrots for hair, cucumber slices for eyes with a red grape in the center…you get the idea! When you make it fun – they will get excited! You can even sneak in a few new veggies this way!
4. Supplements and vitamins – yes!
Your kids need them too! Which do I love? Isagenix makes a great kids multivitamin that is highly absorbable and my kids literally beg for them daily. I know they are getting what they need when I can’t always sneak it into their daily routine! The greens and fruits supplements are amazing too! I sneak ¼ serving into their juice, and they can’t even tell!
5. Limit snacking and be consistent!
Let’s face it – kids are masters at “working the system”. If they know they can get snacks after meals, they are less likely to eat the food on their plate. I try to limit snacks right before meals so they’re actually hungry. And if they refuse to eat their meal, I leave it on the table. There’s a good chance they’ll ask for a snack 30 minutes later, and when they do, I point to their plate and say, “If you finish your dinner, you can have a snack”! Over time, it helps create healthy habits and less food waste.
6. Have fun!
Let your kids dress up like a princess or a pirate one night for dinner! If they’re having fun, they may be more willing to try new foods. Our kids also like to be in the “clean plate club”. Since we as adults are ALWAYS in the “clean plate club”, they want to be in the club with us. They make it a competition to see who finishes first. Trust me – it takes a special someone to get into THIS club!
7. Set the example!
When your kids see you making good choices – they will grow up knowing good choices. Try to incorporate lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables daily into your diet. They will start to see that is the norm and create healthy habits for themselves. Sure – treats in moderation are totally normal! Just keep them at “treats” and not an everyday thing.
I will leave you with – kids will be kids! They will eat when they are hungry – offer them healthy choices, healthy meals and healthy snacks. Watch the processed “kid food” and excess sugar hidden in many kids snacks and juices. Read your labels! Especially when it comes to juice and yogurt – find brands that are lower in sugars. Brands we love? Honest, Stonyfield Farm, and Chobani Kids Yogurt tubes! Lastly, don’t stress yourself! We are all doing the best we can to be the best to our kids. Meal time can be a challenge. Parenting can be a challenge. In case nobody told you today – you are doing an awesome job!