We all know how difficult it can be to change food habits when we’re only concerned about our own health and wellness. What is difficult for us as individuals can seem nearly impossible when we think about managing the nutritional needs of our families—especially when we’re selling them on why they won’t be consuming their favorite snacks nearly as often.
Many people how I approach quality nutrition with a family of six. With four little ones, it rarely goes as smoothly.
Here are a few tools and mindset shifts that have really helped us to get our kids to nourish their own growth and development:
Include them in the kitchen
Start small. Make tasks age appropriate and consider your own needs. Being realistic with your expectations, how much patience you have, and how often you do this gives the best chance for a good experience. Ultimately, we want everybody to cherish this time.
Talk about the why behind the quality nutrition
Appeal to your child on this one. My oldest is more likely to go with something if he knows the details. “Greens help your body process and absorb all the other stuff you eat. Without greens, you won’t get as much out of the meat you just ate.” My youngest, however, just wants to know what will make him bigger and faster so he can do all the things his big brother does.
Let them make choices
As long as it meets your needs, let kids pick the meals. For instance, in our family we do a veggie, a meat, and a quality carb at dinnertime. Occasionally, the kids get to pick what those are. When they get to choose they are more likely to eat what's on the plate. Last time, they were so excited they actually did most of cooking themselves. #momwin!
Set boundaries on snacks and second helpings.
Predetermine snack options. Our kids can eat snacks when they are hungry between meals. But they only have a few options: carrots, almonds, cashews, and veggies. Nothing too sweet or salty. Snack time ends an hour before dinner. One huge meal before bedtime helps them sleep better.
Decide on a “substitute” meal
If you are just starting out, this is a great option. Choose a meal is quick and easy, but that isn’t so appealing your little ones want to eat it every night (one example: cottage cheese). If they don’t like dinner and want to eat something else, they can have that meal as their only alternate option.