Eating a more nutritious diet can be challenging but even more so when you have a family with preferences all their own.
Here are five ideas to make healthier eating a family activity:
Eat more meals at the table as a family. I get it – we are busy, and it is hard to carve out time for meals together. But the benefits of eating together can be huge, from improved self-esteem to increased vocabulary. Sitting down for a meal together helps limit distractions during eating, which can increase awareness of hunger and fullness cues. Mealtime is also a great chance for you to demonstrate the healthy eating habits you desire for your family.
Try cooking meals together. Older children can help cook and chop ingredients. Younger kids can measure ingredients, toss salads or stir sauces.
Let the kids plan the meal by issuing a Healthy Plate challenge. To successfully complete the challenge, pick a protein, vegetable, fruit and whole grain. Issue bonus points for creativity and experimentation. Challenge your family to try veggies they haven't liked in the past served in a different way. For example, cooked broccoli and fresh broccoli taste completely different. For more information on building a balanced meal, visit www.myplate.gov.
Try a grocery store scavenger hunt. For example, in the produce aisle ask them to find something purple. Then take that item home and cook it.
Start a garden this spring and enjoy the harvest this summer and fall. Picking out seeds or plants can be very exciting for kids and adults. If you have limited yard space, look for fruits or vegetables that grow well in containers. Another alternative to gardening is visiting the local farmer’s market. Often these venues have family-centered activities and maybe a free piece of fruit! Getting kids involved at the ground-level will create investment in those fruits and vegetables and increase the chances that they will eat them.
If your first attempts at these tips don’t succeed, no worries. Often picky eaters need several exposures to new foods before they may want to try something new. Pair new or previously rejected foods with friendly favorite sides or tasty sauces. This presentation helps the overall meal look less scary.
Building healthy eating habits is a lifelong process. Don’t give up!