One of our biggest challenges at Cooked is serving healthy food to children. Having kids of our own- 3 boys to be exact- we understand how hard it is to try to convince children, surrounded in stores and at school and birthday parties with notions of junk food as "treats" and rewards, to make healthy decisions for themselves. After all we don't want to police their food choices now, but regardless we certainly can't do it forever. Please note that each recommendation for "children" also works for us adults!
1. Don't Force Healthy Choices
Battling snack, dinner, and breakfast options is horrible. One of the easiest and most effective ways to empower your children to make good choices for themselves and to avoid the battle is to stock your fridge and pantry only with foods that they can eat, more of less, until their hearts content. Having only healthy foods around obliterates the need to battle breakfast or snack or lunch/dinner choices and allows kids to feel free in the kitchen and confident in their ability to choose.
2. Make Veggies Fun
A few years ago we started making something called "human snacks." While the name is a bit creepy, it consisted of a plate with a smiley face on it-- generally made from carrots, grapes, peppers, hummus, olives, and other healthy snacks. Our children loved these "human snacks," and on occasion our 7 year old even asks for them now! While our kids are happy to snack on bell peppers now, making the snacks fun allowed us to introduce the veggies to them in a fun, playful way. Are you an adult who struggles to eat enough greens? One of our favorite ways is to throw them in your smoothie (bowl)!
3. Let Kids Make Their Own Lunch or Snack
We started encouraging our kids to make their own lunches for two reasons: first, we parents are really busy in the mornings while our kids are bouncing on their beds in their pajamas! Second, we hoped to get better results when it came time for them to finish their lunches. If the hard work of making the lunch had been done on their own, maybe they would eat more. These days we continue to encourage our kids to make their own lunches and snacks. We find that this also allows them to chose their own "favorites" from the kitchen-- right now, for example, they love grapefruit. Apples? not so much. Allowing them to honor their own little picky-habits avoids their disappointment at school, while empty lunch boxes make the parents happy.
4. Allow Kids to Over-indulge-- a few times.
Okay, we don't do this often, but when our kids have asked, on occasion, for that extra giant slice of cake at a birthday party-- sure... try it out! See what happens, do you feel good? Does it make your tummy hurt, or are you running around like a maniac (and then crying?). We all have to try out the good and the bad from time to time to truly understand the beauty of treating our bodies right. Similarly, encourage kids to see how they feel when they make a really great choice-- do you have more energy? Did your morning at school go better today?
As for ourselves, we have moved from the challenge of trying to get our own kids to eat well to trying to serve great, healthy Cooked meals to kids! It's a bigger challenge but one we take on happily. What meals do your kids love? How do you arrange Cooked kids meals on a plate? Is there a way that makes the healthy meal look more enticing? Let us know!
Images courtesy of Adobe Stock.