Healthy Food Ideas for Kids

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We live in a time where an abundance of sugary, unhealthy, high-calorie foods are cheap and easily accessible. The foods that were supposed to be an occasional treat have all but taken over many children’s diets.
The easiest way to avoid this, of course, is to keep encouraging them to eat whole foods. Set a good example by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables yourself. A simple trick to try is the two-bite rule – everyone has two bites of an unfamiliar food before saying no to it. If they still dislike it after two bites, they can go back to eating something familiar. They may surprise themselves when they realize that a lot of whole foods taste excellent.
The harsh truth is that junk foods are very addictive. Asking your child to go cold turkey is going to result in tears and tantrums. Getting them to omit their favorites will always be hard. Instead, ask them to include the good stuff- add some fruit initially, followed by some home-cooked meals, and gradually, they will be full from the nutritional food and not require the junk so often. Do not shame them for their food choices; this will often result in them eating behind your back or going out to eat with their friends. Shame around food choices is also heavily correlated to the development of eating disorders. Stop using sugary food as a reward- it will elevate the status of junk food as the prize for doing well. Try setting non-food-related rewards instead.
An effective way to get children to eat better is also to encourage them to cook. This will not only teach them an essential life skill, but it will also give them an idea of their palate and the flavors they like to eat. They can slowly become independent enough to start creating the food that they like and not depend on ultra-processed food for the flavors they crave. Show them how to make a few family favorites that you know that they like. Try to understand what they love about food – and help them find the same flavors and textures from better sources.
It might also be a good idea for younger children to try fun shapes- use cookie cutters to make cute patterns from bread or fruit slices. Children have active appetites and will sometimes ask for an oddly-timed snack. Stock the pantry with healthy options (bulk-prep yogurt topped with fruit or breakfast burritos with beans, veggies, and cheese) for sudden hunger pangs. Also, ensure that the kids are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep leads to poor impulse regulation and increased hunger.
The market, nay, the world is so full of junk food that eating ‘regular’ food might seem like deprivation to a child. Rome was not built in a day, so do not expect your child to suddenly become a picture of great food habits- give them time and tilt the balance in favor of good choices.

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