February is National Snack Food Month. This is the perfect opportunity to show your kids how healthy snacks are the best snacks for their growing minds and bodies!
Let’s face it, kids aren’t always enthusiastic about healthy eating.
But both parents and educators know the more interested and involved a kid is with what they’re trying to do, the more enthusiastic and engaged they’ll be.
This makes for easy teaching and better retention – a win-win for kids and the ones teaching them!
And it is possible to get them interested in trying new foods – if you make “fun” the name of the game!
They’re watching you
Like it or not, your kids are always watching what you do.
If they see Mom and Dad choose – and enjoy – healthy foods and beverages, they may be more open to trying something new.
Focus on the food’s benefits
Talk about the benefits of the food on your child’s plate, not the fact that it’s “healthy”. The idea that something is “healthy” is a distant concept for a child, especially young children. Tell them something like “the cheese will give you strong muscles” or “make you powerful”, or whatever phrase you think will appeal to your child.
If they have a favorite superhero or sports figure, try to find a way to tie their attributes (e.g. strength, speed, etc.) to the benefit of eating the food.
Think color, crunch, and healthy fats.
Make the food as appealing to the eye as possible:
- combine different colors
- use different cuts (e.g. round disks vs thin strips)
- try different flavors (mozzarella, cheddar)
- cut and/or arrange into fun shapes
Make it a game
Take the kids grocery shopping. Ask them to help find vegetables and fruits in every color of the rainbow.
Once you’re home, have them help you prepare the foods for quick snacking options throughout the week. Bagging their own portions helps them feel more involved.
Let them decide
To get kids more excited about eating healthy foods give them several healthy choices for at least one of their meals.
For example, if it’s lunchtime, let them choose among options such as pitas, wraps or English muffins made with whole grains. Offer lean ham, turkey or chicken and low-fat cheese slices for the filling.
Let them help
Research has shown that kids who spend time in the kitchen will choose a wider variety of foods and tend towards decisions which are healthier.
Give your kids age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen to expose them to all of the aspects of their food preparation. When possible, let them put together their own meals as they’re much more likely to eat their own creations!
Research has shown that it takes as many as 15 tries before a kid will try a new food. So if they turn their nose up at a new food, keep introducing it and eventually they will give it a try. Even if they don’t like it the first time they try it, over time their taste buds develop and change. They may grow to like it.
There are thousands of great, healthy snack ideas for kids. Here are just a few:
- “Ants on a log” (celery filled with peanut butter and raisins)
- Fresh or canned fruit (canned in 100% juice) served with low-fat yogurt
- Low-fat cheese sticks or cubes
- Whole grain crackers or rice cakes topped with peanut butter or thin cheese slices
- Popcorn (air-popped)
- Quesadillas (whole wheat tortilla stuffed with low-fat melted cheese)
- Baked tortilla chips
- Whole wheat pita bread with hummus
- Fresh fruit
- Homemade trail mix (portioned)
Set the rules
Give them beverage choices such as water, low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice (portioned) to keep them hydrated. Require they ask before they grab a snack.
To promote mindful eating, insist that snacks be eaten at the table or in the kitchen, not in front of the TV or computer.
Getting kids interested in eating healthy foods isn’t always easy, but it is always worth the effort!