Raising Healthy(er) Eaters!

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t eat the healthiest.  I enjoy my junk food, sweets and occasional sodas.  But I want to teach my kids differently.  I want them to make healthier food choices earlier in life.  I also want them to eat what I cook!
I have had numerous discussions with members of my “Mommy Posse” about kids and food.  Why won’t they try something new?  How can I get them to eat their meals?  Should I say no to a snack if I know they are truly hungry?
In raising my 5 and 3 year old thus far, I have learned a few tips I want to share.  Most of the ideas are borrowed from other mommies (and daddies) who, like myself, don’t want to be a short order cook!
1.  Limit snacks throughout the day.  Certainly when your children are babies, you should feed them when they are hungry.  But kids quickly learn that if snacks are freely given, they don’t have to eat their meals, because something better will be given to them later.  In my house, if my kids don’t eat the food on their plates at dinner and they ask for a snack later, it has to be a “healthy” one.
2.  Teach them early about healthy food choices.  Print off the Food Guide Pyramid or “MyPlate”  (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/) , talk about portions and let them help you pick out the menu.  Another good idea is to let them help you cook.  Often times, if kids are involved they are more like to try something new!
3.  Limit drinks.  Certainly if your child is thirsty, let them have water.  But be careful, little bellies can fill up on milk, juice, etc. and not be hungry when mealtime rolls around.  Sippy cups were a wonderful invention.  However, we allow kids to drink from them for too long, out of convenience for us (less spills to clean up), and our kids have access to them all the time.  Try keeping the cup at the table or in the fridge so your child only drinks when they are truly thirsty.
4.  Only eat in the kitchen.  If kids have to stop playing to eat, they will be less likely to graze all day long.  I just recently employed this rule in our home after a recent move.  (I’m trying to save my new carpet!)  Needless to say, my kids aren’t too happy.  However, I’m finding that they are eating meals a little better and snacking less throughout the day. 
5.  Define what are healthy foods and not so healthy foods.  In my house there are only two food groups:  healthy and junk.  Healthy foods include veggies, fruits, grains and meats.  Junk includes candy, chips, soda, etc.  My 5 year old clearly knows the difference and doesn’t ask for anything from the “junk” category when it is off limits.
6.  Avoid being a short order cook.  I know there are some really picky eaters out there and you have to feed them something, so this tip may not work for you.  However if you can meal plan so that each child likes at least one of the sides you are serving with a meal, then you should be good to go.  Don’t fix a different meal for each kid, you’ll run yourself ragged and mealtime will become misery time.
7.  Try the lights out approach.  Another rule in my house related to the kitchen is that when the kitchen lights are off, that means the kitchen is closed.  SO DON’T ASK MOMMY FOR A SNACK!  Some days I was felt like I never got out of the kitchen between fixing meals, cleaning up and serving snacks!  This rule has again helped my kids to limit the food begging.
8.  To piggyback on the Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate, have your child help you create a meal checklist to help ensure that each healthy food group is represented at every meal.  Or you can keep a picture of MyPlate or the Food Guide Pyramid posted on the side of the frig and after your child fills their plate have them check to make sure they have appropriate portions and all food groups represented.
I hope these tips are useful to you and your little ones in helping you solve some of the food battles in your home.  If you don’t have any, consider yourself blessed!
Below is a picture of my youngest helping me make pumpkin pie (I told you I like sweets!).  Much to my surprise, because I involved him in the creation of the pie, he was super excited to taste it.  And because he is MY son, he loved it J

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