MomsGetReal Contributor Katie Bugbee
If I wasn’t counting calories, I’d probably eat chicken nuggets and pasta every day, too. Ketchup might be an adequate “side dish.” And snacks would be meals.
But I’m actually an adult. With healthier habits and better manners (sometimes).
Creating healthy habits in kids is hard. The first taste of French fries and nuggets, and they’re hooked. They don’t want anything else. But here are some tips to work through it. After all, there aren’t too many adults out there who consider ketchup a vegetable (although I do know one).
1. Have meals together. My husband and I both work. By the time we get home, our kids are fed. But on Sundays (and sometimes Saturdays) we have “Family Dinner” at home. We all eat the same thing at the same time. Usually, they’re so excited to have us all at the big table, they eat more and try more. It’s also a great way for us to model good eating habits. This is how my kids started to love salad.
2. Use sprinkles. Broccoli tastes better with Parmesan cheese on top. But Mom can’t add this secret ingredient. The kids have to. That’s the only way this essential veggie seems palatable. It seems a dose of empowerment can boost appetite. Sesame seeds and salad dressings work too.
3. Allow no other options. My friend sent her picky eater 4-year old to private school where they have a standard fancy lunch for all kids. Cobb Salad, Chicken Pot Pie, Chicken drumsticks. For the first two weeks, he didn’t eat more than three (mandatory) bites. But now he eats everything. He might not ask for it on the weekends, but while at school, he eats what is offered.
4. Skip the kiddie menu. When out for dinner, get out of the habit of choosing from the kids’ meals. They’re full of fried junk. Instead, order them a milk or water and have them share a meal with you. Don’t want to share? Ask the waiter if they can bring a half portion of a regular item. If they can’t, take the rest home.
5. GYOG. Grow your own garden – and include the kids. They will get so excited for the peppers, lettuce and cucumbers they “grew,” that they’ll enjoy each bite even more.
6. Don’t call them “picky.” If you label your child as a picky eater, they might just really become one. When you’re offered something unique to give your child, just say “I’m sure she’ll try it.” If she eats 3 bites, it’s a success.
What are your tricks to get your kids to eat like grownups?
Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she’s an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.