Kids are the toughest and most honest critics. Some of us may have discovered this when a child points out your pimple or when they immediately tell you when they dislike something. One of the biggest battles can be getting them to enjoy food and to try new ones. Most children have stigmas towards fruits, veggies, or anything besides carbs and sweets; but today we are going to talk about how to get kids in the kitchen to encourage them to develop a healthier relationship with food.
Do you remember hating broccoli or Brussels sprouts as a kid? Have you ever wondered why you or other kids despised them so much? Besides the fact that they are not the most appealing to the eye, studies have shown that kids are drawn to the foods that will give them the most energy. Their minds think: candy + cookies = sugar rush for recess! Fruits and veggies are not as caloric as chips or chocolate, which could contribute to why their minds do not gravitate towards them.
In reality, most junk food is filled with “empty calories” that give a burst of energy, but then most likely follow with a crash. Healthier snacks like an apple with peanut butter or a granola bar will satisfy them while also giving more benefits like staying full for longer and gaining more vitamins and nutrients. With some slight tricks to the eye and different verbiage, getting kids in the kitchen and excited about eating could be easier than you think.
Why Eat Healthy?
First, it is important to understand why you should involve your kids in the kitchen and model a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, healthy eating supports muscles, strengthens bones, boosts immunity, and helps the digestive system. These are just some of the reasons to encourage your children to make intuitive food choices for their bodies that will carry on into their adult lives. It is recommended that children consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day in order to obtain these benefits.
Modeling Healthy Eating
Children mimic just about everything they see. This can be an advantage and disadvantage depending on how you see it. If you show your children the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, they will be likely to follow in your footsteps.
Some ideas on how to do this could be: eating the same meals as your children, bringing them grocery shopping with you, talking about the benefits of foods while eating them, showing enjoyment in eating healthy foods, and avoiding making negative comments about foods. Here is a more detailed document about the importance of modeling healthy eating habits for children.
Food = Fuel
A new or alternative way to teach your children about relationships with food is by taking the negativity and hierarchy out of certain ones. Instead of presenting dessert after a meal as a reward, present it on the same plate as the main meal. This way, the food is seen as equally important for the body, and the child will view foods like chicken and veggies on the same “level” as a cookie or brownie.
Changing your language regarding food could help as well. For example, “What snack is going to give you the most fuel for soccer practice?” might urge kids to eat a piece of fruit rather than a bag of chips. However, it is vital to remember that developing healthy eating habits does not mean ruling out one food or the other. Encourage them to think of which food is going to give them the most fuel to charge their bodies.
Some kids are not open to trying new fruits and vegetables because they do not understand the benefits of them. In order to make talking about food more fun, try referring to foods as providing different superpowers.
For example, drinking milk, eating dark, leafy greens, and beans gives you the superpower of Calcium, which will grow your bones and make your teeth strong. Eating a clementine for a snack gives you the superpower of Vitamin C, which will help heal cuts and scrapes from falling off a bike.
Here is a more extensive list of vitamins and their benefits if you and your child would like to go through them. This will help them be more inclined to choose certain foods with these vitamins.
Food is Fun!
Getting kids in the kitchen will help them learn about the importance of food. This will help your children develop a healthy relationship with food early on in life will create good habits for their future. This topic does not have to be boring! Reframe their minds to think of food as a source of fuel and make space for kids in the kitchen through creativity and invention.