When my kids were younger, they went through stages. There were times when they actually seemed to enjoy salads and other healthy foods, but then there were times when they only wanted chicken nuggets and French fries. On the busiest days, I was very tempted to avoid the battle and just give them what they wanted. At times, I even conceded, but I knew it was wrong.
Even back then, I knew how important it was for them to eat nutrient-rich meals; I knew they needed nutrients to develop into the smart and healthy young women I wanted them to become. So, we had some battles. ‘It wasn't easy, but I did pick up a few tips along the way.
Here are my best tips for getting your kids to eat more nutritious meals:
- Always serve breakfast. According to 1990 research published in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, school-age children who eat breakfast are more likely to perform better on tests than children who skip breakfast. Here's a trick: Buy the healthy cereal, but mix a little non-sweetened cocoa powder into the milk. It doesn't add any sugar, and it's a good source of iron. And there you have it: healthy cereal and chocolate milk. Your kids will love it.
- Sneak veggies into fun foods. Quesadillas are one of my favorite snacks for the kids because you can easily sneak small pieces of broccoli or cauliflower (or both) into the mix. You can do the same with mac and cheese.
- Swap out empty-calorie snacks for more nutritious ones. Instead of a regular chip cookies, make yours with oatmeal. Oatmeal raisin cookies are a stretch for some kids, so meet them halfway and use semisweet chocolate chips instead of raisins. Sweet potato chips are also a great swap for regular potato chips.
- Make more food at home. I know it can be hard to find the time, but it can be done. You can make simple snacks to have on hand for the kids in almost no time. Try mixing yogurt with small slices of fresh fruit and freezing it in popsicle molds. The preparation won't take more than five minutes, and you'll have a healthy and nutritious snack ready to go.
Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!
Maria is our expert for medicine, fitness and general health. Her contributions are particularly convincing through completeness, accuracy and her own personal experience. Maria also writes for other health magazines, which has enabled her to build up her expert status.