How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy for under $2500
By Lindsey Dickie on November 19, 2013
We don’t all have $2500 to drop on a nanny consulting service to come to our homes and train our nannies to expand our children’s palates to include more vegetables and worldly variety (it’s not just me, right?).
Upon reading a New York Times article featuring the private chef duo, marc+mark, I thought to myself… seriously??? Sure, two hard-working parents might not have time to spend hours in the kitchen preparing Turkish Feinting Imam or Nordic Smørrebrød with salmon tartare to tempt their urbane child, but surely there’s a way to introduce variety and healthy options for under $2500.
The article does have some key points that I agree with though – frozen chicken fingers do not a healthy meal make. Frozen chicken fingers in the microwave… just shoot me now.
Let’s have a look at what you’re serving up when you feed your kid chicken fingers:
Recently, Mississippi researchers examined chicken nuggets and found that they consisted of 50 percent or less chicken muscle tissue (breast or thigh) the rest was a mix of fat, blood vessels, cartilage, bones and nerves.
Like much of our diet today, the nugget is processed so highly that its taste and texture depend as much on engineering and additives as on any raw ingredients, making it an easy way to disguise cheap or adulterated food.
Of course, the American National Chicken Council will tell you otherwise, but who are you going to believe, the people who make money off chicken nuggets, or the people who don’t?
Either way, it’s chicken and breading people – it’s easy and quick to make healthy nuggets for your kids at home – but to achieve at home what nanny consultants can provide you for a mere few thousand dollars, here are a few more steps you can take at home for free.
10 Ways to get your Kids to Eat Veg and Try New Things
- Start them young! If your kids have been living off a beige diet of tater-tots and fish sticks, your heading towards an uphill battle to reintroduce the rainbow of foods that are going to keep them healthy. Rather, start them on a variety of interesting purees as soon as they’re onto the solids. Peas, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and avocados make great baby foods. And when they’re just a bit older there’s no reason they can’t eat what mom and dad are eating. It’s not a restaurant – don’t make your kids separate meals from your own.
- Watch out for the bad guys – Studies have also shown that restricting foods makes kids more likely to binge on it. So, if you’ve got a forbidden jar of candies on the counter, you’re going to have a hard time getting kids to try braised brussel sprouts. The best thing to do is to keep the junk out of the house.
- Take your kid grocery shopping – make sure it’s a good experience and not a hair-pulling, teeth-grinding, fury-inducing disaster. Include them in the process, assigning them each a list of veggies and fruits they’re responsible for choosing. Touch, smell and listen to the fruit together and talk about how to know if it’s ripe, what kind of recipes you can incorporate it in.
- Cook together – Not only are kids who help in the produce aisle more likely to try new veggies, studies have proven that kids who help in the kitchen are even more likely to make healthy food choices and are more apt to sample new things if they’ve had a hand in preparing them.
- Don’t serve boring stuff – I am admittedly a bit of a foodie, but serve me up plain steamed veg, or worse, boiled potatoes, and I’ll become that petulant child pushing the food around my plate without actually eating any. If you want kids to love food make it interesting! Garnish! Season! Add cheese! You get the picture.
- Don’t be a picky eater yourself – Children tend to reject the same foods as their parents. So if you want your child to grow up to be a broccoli-loving young adult, you’d better eat up. Enjoy your food –don’t just tolerate it – become a foodie. If you really savour your food and talk about how its different flavours compliment each other, guess what herbs and spices were used, if it’s really good, moan with enjoyment (but don’t fake it) – your kids will in turn develop a passion for food. It won’t happen overnight – especially if you’re trying to reform an already picky eater, but it will sink in slowly.
- Garden Together – just like the shopping and the cooking, growing your own vegetables really pushes the point home. I saw a show where Jamie Oliver went to a school in the UK and held up some everyday fruits and vegetables in a grade 1 class. The kids couldn’t name half of them. They didn’t know what a tomato was for crying out loud! They knew what French fries were, but had no idea they came from potatoes. Know where your food comes from. Period.
- Reintroduce them to foods they already know and like. If you’re at the point where all your kids will eat is chicken strips and pizza, start making them from scratch. There’s nothing unhealthy about baked chicken strips made at home. It’s all the additives in the frozen kinds that will kill you. It may take a few recipes to find one they love, but it’s definitely worth the time and the extra effort.
- Include a Geography Lesson. If you’d like your kids to develop worldly palates, introduce them to the world! Look at colourful pictures of spices in India and try eating sushi with chopsticks. Kids love to learn and when they see other kids around the world eating different types of food they’re more likely to try it too. Start with less spicy options with familiar textures and go from there. I have friends with a toddler who loves spicy Kimchi. Anything is possible.
- Put healthy ingredients in unexpected places. If your kids aren’t quite ready for sushi or brussel sprouts, try adding new ingredients to make your old favourites a little bit healthier. These Avocado brownies and beet pancakes are better than the originals. Trust me.
How do you get your kids to eat more variety? Let us all know below or share it with us at facebook.com/winnipegkidscan
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