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How To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy Food

By August 17, 2009 21 Comments

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One area that I can’t say I have much expertise or authority in, is getting kids to eat healthy.  I always get criticized that my food recommendations and choices aren’t kid friendly.  Of course I read and study on the matter, but until I really have experienced and lived by example, I don’t have much to say on the topic.  I recently got a very passionate email from a woman who was tired of hearing moms blame their kids for not being able to eat healthy.  After reading her long email, I asked if she would be willing to write  a guest post, and she accepted.  So here is an-in-your-face challenge from one mom to another!

Enjoy!

kids1“I have heard many times Moms say some version of “I know I need to change my eating habits to lose weight, but I can’t get my kids to eat healthy meals”.

As Moms, we pick many battles for the health & safety of our kids: wash your hands, buckle up, wear bike helmets, brush your teeth. We also get them regular health check ups and vaccinate them.

However, at one of the most basic needs of children-healthy eating-we draw the line and choose to lose the battle. Eating healthy is one of the most important keys to health and wellness for any age; it’s one of the most preventative measures for our immediate and life long health. Yet, time after time, Moms back down from the battle.

I’m not one of those moms that backs down from that battle. Even when embarked on my own battle to lose 30 lbs last year, my kids ate everything I ate from grilled veggies to salmon to ratatouille (all recipes from my Cooking Light magazine). What I’m about to tell you may seem too strict to some, but it’s worked for me.

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My kids have never been made special meals. They eat what we eat, because we eat healthy, balanced meals at home. Because of an unhealthy addiction to processed food (which I blame on my pregnancy cravings for lunch meat, hot dogs and Cousins subs), my eldest fought us from day one of table food. Our rule was simple, he had to take a bite for every year he was old. He longer he fought and whined, the more of his helping he had to eat. He would sit for an hour. After that, his plate was removed, wrapped and served to him at the next meal. He did not get any snacks until that meal was gone. He’s 11 now and we still do this battle once and awhile. More often than not, however, he eats whatever is in front of him.

kids5Like most moms, I get tired of battles, even this one that I feel strongly about. My kids have some favorite healthy meals that I fix regularly for them like tacos (complete with veggie toppings), enchiladas (meat and/or black bean), meat loaf and homemade spinach calzones. Also, when I’m serving an entrée that’s likely to encourage a battle, I try to balance that with a favorite veggie or fruit side dish. My kids eat spinach salad, sugar snap peas, grilled veggies & black bean and mango salad. And sometimes, I just make all of the grown up favorites and everyone just deals with it!

My kids also are good about making their own healthy choices for snacks. My kids love apples with peanut butter, pretzels, string cheese, whole wheat bagels with cream cheese, yogurt (plain with our own fruit put in it), dried fruit and popcorn. Summer time is always snack-easy because my kids love all the fresh fruit and vegetables that are readily available.

kids2Don’t get me wrong-despite choosing this battle most of the time, my kids also get their share of gooey granola bars, Popsicles, mac and cheese, pizza and French fries. Its just not a mainstay in their diet. And I definitely don’t let it impact mine!

I know my process of teaching healthy eating may be contrary to what the experts say regarding food battles and lifelong eating habits. I just disagree based on my past experience. You see, my mom picked this battle with me. And here I stand, no eating disorders of any kind and a wealth of knowledge about good and bad foods (not that I always make the right choice, but its not due to ignorance).

One thing I make sure my kids are very clear about as I’m making them take two more bites- its not about the food and the battle. It’s about how much I love them and want to do everything in my power to keep them healthy because their wellness is the most important thing to me. They are worth the battle.”

-Jackie

I would love to hear your feedback!  Do you agree or disagree?  How do you go about getting your kids to eat healthy food?