Children are notorious for being picky eaters. Yet with childhood obesity on the rise, it is more important than ever to teach them about healthy meal options and about the variety of food options that they can enjoy. A child that learns that nutritious foods can be flavorful will make healthy decisions about food as an adult. In addition, a child that is educated about food and food options will fit in with a larger variety of peers, both now and as an adult.
Play on what you know your child likes. If she likes chicken nuggets, for example, introduce her to oven-"fried" chicken. Then gradually try newer, healthier, and even more unusual foods. She will be eating a nutritious chicken stir fry in no time.
Allow him to "help" in the kitchen, whenever possible. Small children can't handle knives, but even preschool-aged children can separate orange sections or wash lettuce to add to a salad. Children love to be helpful and they will be learning about ingredients and food safety as they work.
Try something new. For example, instead of serving beef tacos, serve tacos made with grilled fish instead. Children will be interested to learn that fish is often added to tacos in coastal cities in Mexico, or that Mexican food is not always spicy, for instance.
Make eating fun. Provide creamy dips to entice your young ones to dunk their veggies. If you are serving a Chinese noodle dish, let the kids experiment with chopsticks. Place fresh fruit on a blunt wooden skewer to create a color and taste sensation. Older children and teens might enjoy dipping bread and apples into a warm cheese fondue. The options are nearly endless; and for every age range, you can find a way to capture the interest of your children.
Talk to older children and teens about menu planning. Read the labels together and discuss nutrition facts. Teach them smart decision-making about food early and it will become a habit as they prepare more meals on their own.
Set a good example. Children watch and learn from everything you do. If you talk to them about eating healthy foods yet you choose the largest burger on the restaurant menu, they will learn to disregard what you say.
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- Some foods need to be introduced more than once. Just because a child doesn't like a flavor as a toddler doesn't mean that he will continue to dislike it a few months later.
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