Zavion is such a good eater (Avalee is still getting there) that I often get asked what Colin and I “did.” I've actually been asked a few times recently how we get him to eat so well. So, I thought I might share my 'tips' here for all my readers (did anyone hear crickets?).
Here is my disclaimer: I am, by no means, an expert on healthy eating, or childhood nutrition or well, anything regarding food. I do know what has worked for us and our kids. So, if you think I'm doing something terrible wrong; keep it to yourselves. On the other hand, if you think I'm amazingly-awesome, please don't hesitate to let me know. :o) Also, I'm going to not trying to sound like I'm bragging, but if I do, just deal with it. I mean, it is my blog, and you are reading it.
So, without further ado, here goes...
1)Eat with your kids!
For me, this is so, so important and really sets the foundation for a healthy eating lifestyle. Now, I know a lot of parents prefer feeding their kids and putting them to bed, before they eat, but I would really encourage you to eat as a family. As soon as our kids could sit in the highchair, they were at the table with us. I really think it helps for your kids to see you eating, and sets a great example. I mean, if you're chowing down on carrots, you're kids are more inclined to to as well! And, besides the food part of it, I think it's also helpful for them to see how to eat. If they're with you at the dinner table, they are seeing how to use utensils, napkins, etc. It's also just a great way to connect with each other. How could you not want to hear about the adventures your four year old had that day or see the newest silly faces your one year has mastered!
2)If you want them to eat broccoli, give them broccoli!
Yeah, I know that just sounds too easy, but it really works. And, I'm not talking about being sneaky and hiding the food you want them to eat (unless you're past that 'magic' age of three...if it's not happened yet, by all means, sneak away!); I mean just give it to them. If they ask for a snack, hand them a banana or an apple. At dinner, serve up some green beans or pears. We've always just given the kids a variety of healthy things to eat for meals and snacks. Now, they may not always eat it, but they know it's the norm, and not the exception.
3)Don't force them to eat anything (I'm not sure, if this should be sub-two, but we'll just go with three anyway, 'cause I'm really diggin' the numbers.)!
We just tell the kids that they at least need to try something new. As a reformed picky eater (yea, I still have my moments), I know I hated being forced to eat something I deemed as disgusting, weird or just out of my comfort zone. So, if they don't like something, after one bite (yup, just one bite, but it does have to be what we call a 'real' bite; utensil all the way in the mouth and no food left), we don't push it. And, you know what? Most of the time, after that bite, Zavion (again, Avalee is still a little young) likes it and digs right in.
4)Instead of prohibiting the 'bad stuff' encourage the 'good stuff!'
We have never forbidden junk food, but instead really push the fruits and veggies. We rarely have junk food in the house (the Halloween bucket is usually emptied of last years stash right before trick-or-treating), but we always have apples, bananas, carrots, broccoli, etc. We stash the fruits and veggies in various places, and when it comes time for a snack, the kids usually head to the fruit bowl or the refrigerator crisper. For dessert, we'll often have sliced strawberries, or a slice of watermelon or a fresh peach. That's not to say we don't have ice cream every so often, but when we do, we try not to make a big deal about it.
5)Make it together!
Zavion has been in the kitchen with me, since he was old enough to stand. Avalee has now established her place in the kitchen as well, and I love it. I don't think it's ever “too early” to teach your kids to cook. Z started out helping me with baking stuff (Christmas cookies, cupcakes, etc), but I soon realized how much fun we were both having. He was really interested in how the food was prepared, and I found that if he 'helped' make something, he was usually more willing to eat it. I started having him help me prepare veggies for stir fry, mash up bananas for banana bread, and measure the rice. Now, I can find a job for him for just about everything; whisking, mixing, measuring (don't worry, no knives yet!).
6)Show them where the food comes from!
We've had a vegetable garden since before the kids were born, but it's now something they can help us with. Zavion has been helping in the garden since he was about one and a half, and Avalee is just getting into it (she loves her little watering can!). One of Z's favorite foods are tomatoes, so he has his own cherry tomato plant he tends to. One of my proudest moments was when he was little, and we were in the grocery store. We passed by the tomatoes, and Z asks, all wide-eyed, “Mommy, are those our 'matoes from our own garden”? I knew then that he had a good understanding of where food comes from.
Obviously not everyone can grow their own foods, but you can always take your kids to the farmer's markets, local farm, orchard, etc.
7)Make food fun!
You're not going to win them over if you serve them steamed broccoli at every meal.
I make kebabs (just alternate, cheese, fruit, lunch meat, etc) for lunch, silly faces
out of dinner (chicken eyes, green bean smile, etc), quesadillas cut into dinosaur
shapes. Just be creative, and have fun with it!
So, I know this was pretty different from my usual blog posts, but like I said, maybe it can help someone else. I hope I made some sense, and didn't sound too preachy. :o)