Getting your children to eat the food you make them is difficult — making them be enthusiastic about healthy eating is even harder. Catherine McCord, author of the popular blog Weelicious.com and now the new cookbook “Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes,” feels your pain. The good news is there’s a solution: McCord says that if you give your children a choice, make food fun and involve them in the process, they’ll be eating well in no time.
1. Change the presentation, change their attitude
One of the biggest challenges any parent has to face is getting their children to not only eat healthy food, but to embrace a nutritious diet. The key is to make all food, whether it’s a slice of chocolate cake or a salad, seem exciting to your kids. “Parents should offer kids an array of different foods, with bright colors and interesting textures. I always say if it’s on a stick, if it’s in a pancake, if it’s in a muffin — kids will eat it,” claims McCord.
2. Involve them in the process
It’s all about baby steps, whether they’re helping you ice some cupcakes or helping you stir soup for dinner. McCord pushes for children to get a little bit of independence in the kitchen. “Every meal involves my kids, even if it’s just the smallest task of pulling the ends off beans. [The fact] they’ve helped you cook the meal — remind them of that.”
3. Kids can shop, too
If you give your children a task and ask them for help while in the grocery store, shopping can remain civil. “Say: ‘Let’s pick out a fruit and vegetable. You get to pick anything you want. What are we going to make with it?’ You’ve given them this big idea and now they’re looking, they’re asking questions — and it will keep them busy.”
4. Give them choices (just not too many)
When it comes time to figure out dinner together, it’s hard to find the right balance between letting your children run wild and being too tough. “I think it’s more of an attitude,” McCord notes. “If you say you have to [eat a certain thing], I guarantee your child will say ‘I will not.’ Give them a choice: ‘Do you want to grate the carrots or should we steam them?’ You’re never going to win by forcing your child to do something.”
5. Give it time
Your child isn’t going to suddenly wake up tomorrow and ask for a bowl of greens for breakfast. McCord suggests introducing them to healthy habits from day one, but don’t stress if some things aren’t an overnight success. “There’s always tomorrow. If your child doesn’t eat something green today, hopefully they’ll eat two green things tomorrow.”