God made such wonderful food for us to eat! I found having children they tend to lean toward the processed, colorful and sugary foods not found on trees or in creation. No matter what we eat at home.
“How do you get all your kids to eat their veggies?” a new mom asked me recently. I thought about it for a moment and I realized all four of my kids eat whatever is served at the dinner table.
And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Gen 1:29
As a cancer survivor (twice now!), I cook pretty healthy. Sure, my kids still love all the plastic, colorful foods created by man, but I want them to eat what is beneficial for their bodies and love it. We will always have choices when we leave our home. My kids go to birthday parties and enjoy the cake and candy, just like yours. But when we are home, I am in charge of what they eat. I do the grocery shopping and most of the cooking.
Reflecting over the last fourteen years, here are a couple of things we have done.
- Be the best example to your kids. My kids see me eating lots and lots of veggies. In fact, if I eat anything that is different from my normal fare, the kids notice and say I am cheating! By doing this, my kids have oftentimes asked to try my food and experimented with something, just because I am eating it. Don’t be the mom telling her kids to eat healthy while she stands there with a Frappuccino and a scone in her hand (I used to be this mom!).
- Be stealth with your ingredients. I am stunned what my kids will eat if they don’t know what it is or if it is covered up somehow. Zucchini with cheese, smoothies with kale, and cheeseburger soup loaded with veggies. I always look for recipes with veggies in them. Even traditional classic dishes have alternative choices now on the internet. I have also switched my kids to “look alike” snack items with much better ingredient list. They have no idea because it tastes good.
- Get your kids involved in cooking. Some day your little princesses and knights will be old enough to help in the kitchen. When they are, you will be amazed at what they will eat, if they have a hand in making it. Even my 14 year-old son prefers to take a salad to school instead of a sandwich. If he makes it, he is more apt to eat it. Sometimes it is “kids’ day” and they are in charge of cooking dinner. I am amazed at how similar they will cook dinner to how I would. Something is rubbing off!
- Tell them they have to try everything. They say it takes 10 to 15 tries before a child will eat – and like – a different food. Wow! That is a lot of stress to get them to eat one thing, let alone a whole bunch of new foods! Yes, it is. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. As parents it is our job to train them up in many areas. I believe teaching them how to eat healthy and with good portion control is our job. So what if they won’t eat it? (see below under ‘drastic measures’)
- Watch documentaries and internet videos about healthy food choices. Nothing has a more radical effect on my kids than videos about good food or bad food choices. Movies like Food Inc, Super Size Me, Forks over Knives, etc. will impact their food choices – and yours. Last night my husband had the kids watch a YouTube video about “leaky gut” that promoted probiotics. All my kids got up this morning and took all their vitamins and probiotics without me having to ask.
Our Drastic Measure
When our kids were little (under 4 years old), they all had a day where they refused to eat their food. Every one of them. Luckily, I had a wiser older woman in my life who suggested we adopt an old principle dealing with food. We decided to do what folks in the “old days” used to do and I am so glad we did. Back to the days of no-nonsense parenting, I guess.
So when our little kids put up a fuss about their dinner, we asked them to eat it. To at least take a bite. And if they didn’t, then we would let them know they wouldn’t get any other food until they ate their whole dinner. I realized very quickly this was a power struggle. It really had more to do with them wanting the power than something different to eat. So I served the same plate of food for breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner. They were allowed to have water, but no other food. Not one snack. There was so much whining, so much crying and so much demanding, I wanted to give up. Obviously, this was a day I had to cancel everything and stay home with them.
Eventually, every single one of them got really hungry and ended up eating the entire dinner – even ice cold. One of them went hungry for 36 hours! Only one of them did it two times. But I can tell you this: after this moment, they all ate their dinner or at least tried it and there was no argument (or power struggle) over “a bite” to try it.
It may sound drastic, but it worked for us and all four of our kids! I also know it has worked for other friends, too. Was it painful? Yes! Was it an inconvenience? Yes! But all my kids are great eaters now. I just asked them all if they remember those days and we all got a good laugh about it!
What are ways that you have gotten your kids to eat healthy food?