By: Dr. Jaclyn West Corcoran
In my office, many parents tell me the struggles they face getting their kids to eat healthy fruits and vegetables. One piece of broccoli on a good day does not constitute a serving, so what can you do? Try to get the kids involved as much as possible; give them some ownership in the meal.
For example: get colored index cards make green for vegetables (green because you can eat as many as you want), yellow for fruit, blue for protein and pink or red for starches – pasta, potatoes, rice (red because you want to limit these foods). Make one index card for each food item and sit down and make a family meal plan for the week. Have the kids help decide what they eat for the week. This will help you with your organization and shopping list and will make sure your family eats well. You can do the same with their school lunches.
Another idea is to take one child each week to the store and let them pick out the produce for the week. Giving them some control and choice may increase the likelihood that they will try something new. You as parents have to also be open to trying turnips or brussel sprouts if that is what they pick.
At home, make kids be the chef’s helper. Get them an apron and have them help you clean and prepare the vegetables. Having them help you make the meal may mean the food actually gets eaten in the end. If you have more than one child, designate a day of the week to each child. They can have one on one time with mom or dad; and learn about healthy foods and how to cook them.
Finally, make the vegetables taste good! Instead of butter you can drizzle a little olive oil and a pinch of sea salt or balsamic vinegar. Use herbs and seasoning to give the vegetables some more flavor. Incorporate vegetables and fruits into meals that the kids already like. For example – if you’re making lasagna, try adding some spinach or carrots to the sauce. Making mac and cheese, add broccoli.
The eating patterns kids are exposed to in the beginning will carry through with them into adulthood. Childhood obesity has reached a new high and it is completely preventable. Changing this pattern begins with the parents and can take some creative thinking to get the ball rolling.