1Give them credit!

Sydney eating healthy roasted cauliflower

Sydney eating roasted cauliflower

It’s easy to assume your kids won’t try or like a certain healthy food, but sometimes repeated exposure is the key.  Offer them new foods OFTEN, and don’t give up!  We had to present eggs over and over to my daughter Sydney until she finally tried them and fell in love!

2Kids aren’t born with developed taste buds.

Although we are often born with a predisposition to certain foods, nothing is written in stone. In fact, babies develop a preference for prepackaged food ONLY when they are exposed to it repeatedly.  So with a little determination, and a willingness to try new things yourself, you can help shape your kids’ taste buds over time!

3Get them involved

Family day picking healthy strawberries

Family day picking strawberries

Educating kids while you cook and giving them responsibilities in the creative process, increases their chances of partaking in the finished product.  I do this a couple of times a week, and I even take it one step further by offering my kids occasional cooking lessons (insert link to video here).    The goal is for kids to develop basic cooking skills so they are less vulnerable to the pre-packaged diet.

4Your own enthusiasm is contagious!

Ok so I love food, and maybe this doesn’t come naturally to all, but our kids often see me going crazy about the color of potatoes and tomatoes, or how fast our garden grew, or how good something looks and tastes.

When I’m cooking, I will often say “OK, I’m eating all of this–no one can have any because it just looks too good!”  When the kids come to look, I cover the pan up so they can’t see.   Finally, I show them but tell them they need to sit down so they don’t fall over from the deliciousness!  A certain level of fun and silliness related to food helps foster a positive experience.

5Choices!

Often kids feel a greater sense of control if they can participate in the decision-making process.  Not only will they feel better about trying a food they chose, but they also won’t feel like you have “hijacked” their ability to eat what they want.   Recently, for example, I served a huge veggie platter with dinner.  I made two different dips with it that they could choose from.  The only rule was “eat some veggies,” but it was up to them which ones.  We didn’t “make” them eat tomatoes, which was one of the 5 choices.

6Be a Role Model!

Sarah giving a home cooking lesson to her kids for eating healthy

Home cooking lesson–the perfect egg cooked 3 ways

We all know that kids listen to what we do more than what we say.  We can’t expect kids to eat healthy if they watch us get fast food every day from the back seat.

Occasionally we try foods that our kids know we don’t care for, just to demonstrate an open mind.  We also try new foods, or “old” foods presented in
a new way.

7Engage them in the Entire Process!

By understanding the origins of food, kids are more willing to try new things.  At home, Owen and Sydney help grow food in our garden, and they even have their own mini plots!  Since we are so busy, we keep it simple with low-maintenance things like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini.   Even if it’s just an herb garden, give kids a tangible way to participate in growing food!   Our kids feel a sense of achievement from gardening, which develops patience and an appreciation for delayed gratification.  This helps counteract all the pre-packaged food options out there.

Even though shopping is usually much easier without kids in tow, there is great benefit to including them in the process.  Our kids come with me to the co-op where I grocery shop, and to the local farms where we get meat.  They also often accompany me to the area farmers’ markets.   Yes, it takes more time.  And no, I can’t shop while listening to iTunes–but the payoff is worth it!

8Don’t Worry About It!

For real.  Kids go through phases.  Just keep being consistent, and take baby steps towards a healthier family lifestyles!  Try not to get angry with kids or engage in the same power struggle day after day, as this can become a negative

Owen Hotchkiss frying a healthy egg

Owen Hotchkiss learning to fry an egg.

association with food.  If it’s not working, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  Our son would not eat carrots and we were frustrated until one day we discovered he just didn’t like them raw in “long sticks”.  We started giving him carrot “coins” instead, and it made a world of difference!

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