10 Tips to help your kids eat healthy AND enjoy it!
Being a fitness professional and the mother to a beautiful 4 1/2 year old; one of the most common questions I get asked is “how do I get my kids to eat healthy? ”
Well, here are TEN tips to help your kids eat healthy…and LOVE it!!
1. Lead by example.
Leading by example is the best advice I can give. If you have a healthy relationship with food, chances are your kids will too. I have friends and colleagues that prepare several different meals at meal time, one for mom that is “diet” friendly, a hearty meal for dad and kid friendly foods for their children. It’s not always realistic to have the entire family eating the same health-conscious foods, but it doesn’t hurt to try. It will make your life easier and your family will reap the health benefits too.
2. Keep healthy foods and snacks accessible and ready to eat.
Apples, bananas, grapes, carrots and celery sticks are all kid favorites. Clean and slice fruits and vegetables, so they are ready to eat and easy to take to school or activities. Make your own trail mix by combining raw nuts, un-sweetened dried fruit and whole grain cereal. Your child can help create the mix. My daughter has a special bin in the pantry and drawer in the fridge with “mom approved snacks” she is allowed to grab herself at anytime.
3. Don’t use food as a reward
“You did such a great job, you deserve an ice cream” which could lead to food issues later, as the child will relate food to praise and love. But don’t use food as a bribe either, “if you clean your room, you can have candy” that can also lead to food issues later in life. They will seek food as a reward for accomplishments. Better choices are to offer an activity as a reward,” we can ride our bikes, play catch or play a game.”
NOTE: If YOU feel like your child is too fat or too thin, it’s best to consult your pediatrician before modifying their diet. Never restrict food or force them to “clean their plates” as this can lead to other problems and issues in the years ahead.
4. Teach your child proper portion and serving sizes.
By letting them help measure out portions with measuring cups & spoons or by using one of the kid-friendly plates that have pre-printed portions on them.
5. Make food fun!
Use berries, raisins, or bananas to make patterns on wholegrain pancakes or by adding a drop of food coloring to pancake mixes to make them red or blue; or adding a drop to the milk in their whole grain cereal to make it pink. Challenge each other to make pictures on your plates using veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower as trees, green beans topped with a dollop of yam or squash to make flowers. Kids love fruit kabobs that they can dip in low-fat yogurt or vegetable kabobs they can dip in hummus. Get creative!!! I would love to hear your ideas too…so share your tips in the comments below!
6. Let your child participate in the food selection.
Take them to the grocery, letting them help pick out the healthy foods. A favorite activity of my daughter is to see how much the fruits and veggies we are are buying weigh on the produce scale.
7. Give them food choices
“Do you want broccoli or green beans”, or “do you want a banana or an apple” will get better results instead of “do you want a fruit or vegetable with your meal?” As parents, if we phrase it as yes/no instead of a choice, the answer will likely be NO!
Kids need to drink lots of water just like their parents do. One of the tricks I use to get my daughter to drink more water is by flavoring it…but NOT with sugary or artificially flavored drink enhancers. I thinly slice cucumbers, lemons, oranges, and sometimes strawberries, adding them to a pitcher of water. We call it “spa water” and she loves it! Remember, fruit juices and milk have a LOT of natural sugars in them and should be consumed in moderation. If your kids are drinking soda, that should be one of the first things that you ween them off of!
9. Be Sneaky!
If all else fails, there are lots of creative and “sneaky” ways to add healthy foods to your kids meals. Some of the most popular are by pureeing fruits and vegetables and adding them to your favorite meals or baked goods. Adding fruit and nuts to pancakes or vegetables to baked goods is easy to do. Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to add more fruits and vegetables to my daughter’s diet. You can add nut butters, greek yogurt, or all natural protein powders to give them a little extra dose of protein too.
10. Remember…kids should be kids!!!
They should be able to enjoy kid friendly foods such as chicken nuggets, pizza rolls, and mac & cheese. There are lots of healthy options available at your favorite natural foods market or you can prepare them at home. Although I am not personally a fan of pizza, mac and cheese and chicken nuggets, candy, etc… for ME, my daughter is a kid and that is what she wants. As I do with my diet, I stick with the 90% rule. When she is at a party or a friends house, I do NOT dictate what she can or can’t have. She is allowed to have what the other kids are having and I do not make a big deal about it. I also DO let her have her favorite things at home, I just buy or make healthier versions of those famous kid favorites!
My favorite healthy brands for kids:
There ARE some packaged kids foods that use top quality ingredients, no preservatives, are very allergy aware and taste so good that kids feel like they are eating the junk food they want. Some of my favorite brands are: Annies home grown, Natures Path Organic , Enviro kids by Natures Path and Ians allergen friendly foods. Check your local natural grocer to find these brands or go directly to their websites (I highlighted the brands so if you click on them they will take you there)
Here are a few GREAT recipes for kids!
Healthy Mac & Cheese
1 ¼ cups whole grain pasta (choose a fun shape and use gluten free if your child can’t have gluten)
1 cup of low-fat (1% milk)
2 tablespoons- wheat flour (leave off if gluten free)
1 ¼ cups reduced fat, sharp cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon of salt (yes, salt is ok)
1/8 teaspoons of pepper
1 slice of whole grain bread or gluten free bread (to make bread crumbs)
Or 1 ¼ cup prepared bread crumbs
*you can also add cauliflower puree to this recipe by replacing the milk with 1 cup of steamed, pureed cauliflower.
Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions (without adding salt or oil to water)
Combine milk and flour in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Cook over medium heat 2 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add cheese, salt, and pepper, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add pasta; toss to coat. Let stand 4 minutes.
Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until the crumbs measure 1 1/4 cups.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, and cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over pasta mixture.
Deceptively Delicious Chicken Nuggets- Jessica Seinfeld
1 cup whole wheat, white or panko bread crumbs (modify with buckwheat or GF bread crumbs)
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 tbs. grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1 cup broccoli, spinach, sweet potato or beet purée
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken tenders, rinsed, dried and cut into small chunks
1/2 tsp. salt
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tbs. olive oil
Directions: Lay a large sheet of waxed paper or aluminum foil on counter. Combine first six ingredients on paper or foil, and mix well with your fingers. In shallow bowl, mix purée and egg with a fork and set bowl next to bread crumb mixture. Sprinkle chicken with salt. Dip chunks into egg mixture and toss in bread crumbs until coated.
Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high burner. When skillet is hot, add oil. Place chicken nuggets in skillet in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan, and cook until crisp and golden on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until chicken is cooked through, golden brown and crisp all over, 4 to 5 minutes longer. (Cut into a piece to check that it’s cooked through.) Serve
Tomato Soup With Goldfish
2- 15 ozs containers of vegetable broth
1-28 ozs can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup- plain, 2% Greek yogurt (the original recipe calls for heavy cream)
Salt & pepper to taste
Directions: Whole grain goldfish (I use the Annies natural ones) – sprinkle on top of each bowl
Combine broth and tomatoes in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. When soup bubbles, stir in yogurt and reduce heat to low. Season with a little salt and pepper and simmer gently 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a blender or food processor, puree soup
Top with whole grain goldfish for decoration. Makes 4 servings
Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
½ cup of low-fat or greek yogurt
½ cup berries (your choice) we use mixed berries
Whole grain cereal (I use the ones made by Enviro kids) – sprinkle on top
Use a juice class or dessert cup, put a layer of berries on the bottom, follow with a layer of yogurt, a layer of bananas and repeat until all are gone. Sprinkle the top with whole grain cereal instead of granola.
In addition to fruits & vegetables, add these kid friendly foods to your next shopping list and make them staples at your house
Pureed fruit in the squeeze containers
Natural fruit roll ups
Whole grain pasta (or GF rice pasta)
Nuts & seeds (my daughter is allergic to nuts so I have seeds)
Whole grain cereal or oatmeal (avoid the pre-sweetened kind), add your own fresh berries
Natural peanut butter, almond butter, or sesame butter are all great options for sandwiches
Whole grain breads (or GF)
Whole grain or corn wraps or tortillas (some come in flavored/colored varieties like red & green which kids love)
Eggs- my daughter loves hard-boiled eggs, you can dye them year around for healthy snack options
Hummus- good for sandwiches, or to dip veggies
About Natalie Jill
Natalie Jill helps people across the globe reach their health, fitness, life and business goals. Natalie is a well known Licensed Sports Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer who was diagnosed as having Celiac Sprue over 12 years ago, and that is why she specializes in weight loss consulting and helping people with food allergies and intolerance’s. Learn how Natalie handled adversity and find out how she "made her own luck". Ready to change your life today? Start by CLICKING HERE.