Is dinner time a battle of wills in your home? Do you send your child off to school with what you feel is a healthy and appealing lunch, only to learn that it was traded for a Lunchables pizza and some cookies? You are not alone. It’s possible to get your children to eat better. One strategy for success is getting your kids involved. This adds work to your already busy day, but it more than pays for itself in the long run.
Let them pick out their own lunch
At some point, kids have to pick out their own clothes and should learn to plan their meals. Help them with that second part by teaming up to make a list of lunches they’d like to bring to school. Lay down the ground rules that are important to you, like “must include a fruit that can’t be traded” or “sugary desserts only twice per week”, then let the brainstorming begin.
Here are some ideas that make sure the tastes kids love (cheese, salsa, pizza, burgers) are included in a healthy way:
• black bean & cheese burritos with salsa on the side
• chicken & pesto wraps
• veggie kabobs with hummus
• ”pizza” with whole wheat pita, sauce and fresh toppings
• turkey burger “sliders” on whole wheat rolls
• sliced raw vegetables with fresh salsa or hummus to dip
• chickpea pita pockets
• cheesy quesadillas with sliced peppers and onions
• grilled chicken fingers with organic BBQ sauce to dip
Ask them “What’s for dinner?”
Let them pick the dinner menu at least one night a week. Give guidelines such as “must include 2 vegetables” and turn them loose. The end result may not be exactly what you would have chosen, but if it’s basically healthy and they’re eating it, everyone wins.
Cook with them
Kids are way more likely to eat what they’ve spent time making. Get a fun cookbook and let them choose a recipe. Some books I like:
- Rachael Ray’s Cooking Rocks & Yum-O: The Family Cookbook: visually appealing and outline tasks based on child’s age
- Emeril Lagasse’s There’s a Chef in My Family: includes good basic information on safety, cleanliness and different types of equipment
- Young Children’s Mix and Fix CookBook: a sentimental favorite – this was my first cookbook. If you can find an old copy, it includes easy treats for young kids. (Notice I said “treats” – most recipes aren’t what we would consider nutritious today).
Show them where vegetables come from
Find a local farm or even a neighbor with a vegetable garden and explore. Better still, plant something easy like string beans or peppers and watch their excitement grow along with the plants.