Your kids want dessert and candy. You want protein and vegetables. Bring them over to your side with a proactive approach to healthy eating.
Kids who lend a hand in the kitchen learn invaluable skills and are more likely to try meals they've helped create.(It never hurts to teach them the skills of washing dishes, either.) Young children enjoy helping choose and wash fresh fruits and vegetables. As they grow, they can progress to stirring, scooping, or carefully cutting soft items.Valerii Apetroaiei/ Getty Images
Show your kid there's more than one way to serve most foods. If they don't like sweet potato mash, encourage them to try sweet potato fries instead (or any of these crowd-pleasing sweet potato recipes!).If they won't eat an apple, make it more interesting by slicing it up and dipping it in peanut butter.
Try making fun shapes using cookie cutters or explore different textures by serving the same food multiple ways at once. Tap into your kid's favourite topics or characters with themed foods like a picnic lunch or all the snacks their favourite character enjoys. Encourage playing with fun shapes by building a mashed potato volcano or sliced carrot coins perfect for stacking.Petar Chernaev/ Getty Images
Tell your kids that if they make nutritious choices 80 percent of the time, the remaining 20 percent can be for treats, like sweets or fast food. This shows them the occasional indulgence won't hurt, as long as they're making healthier choices overall.
Making healthy, nutritious choices at least 80 percent of the time will provide plenty of wholesome foods and chances to try new things while keeping a healthy view of snacks and treats. Food is not good or bad, so avoid shaming less nutritious choices.AsiaVision/ Getty Images
If you give your kid a cookie for good behaviour—or to cheer them up after a hard day—they'll start to associate food with praise or emotions rather than hunger. Instead, reward them with hugs, kind words or stickers.
Develop healthier rewards early. Unhealthy comfort eating and rewards with treats can contribute to eating disorders and obesity. These are very difficult habits to overcome later.FlamingoImages/ Getty Images
When your kid says they're hungry, they might just be bored or craving sweets. You don't want to label those things as bad, but it can help to understand the difference between a rumbly tummy and the desire for a pick-me-up. Brainstorm other ways to deal with boredom or cravings.
Try having a glass of water and redirecting to a fun game or activity instead. If they still feel hungry after a drink and some movement, that's when a nutritious snack is a great go-to.Laura Olivas/ Getty Images
It can be tempting to hide veggies in your kid's meals. But even though they are eating those secret carrots, they aren't learning to eat actual carrots, one of the keys to lifelong healthy eating.
Encourage kids to try veggies in many forms to find what they like, but never force foods that are refused. Once you find a winner keep at it and build on similar flavors, colors, or textures! This is especially important for kids with sensory or food-avoidant issues. It's much easier to learn to like new veggies that are similar to things they already know that they like.filadendron/ Getty Images
Instead of dishing out a serving for your kid, leave dinner on the table in platters and bowls, allowing them to build their own plate. Avoid the temptation to correct how much food your kid is taking—they'll figure it out after a while.
Kids learn the best by experimenting and making their own choices. Make sure every meal has at least one thing that you already know they'll eat, and then make them in charge of their own choices.Patrick Chu/ Getty Images
It's oh-so-tempting to use dessert as a motivator for eating healthy foods, but saying things like "eat your broccoli or you won't get cake" tells your kid broccoli is bad, but they will be rewarded with something good for eating it.
Instead, try serving small treats at the same time as other foods without discriminating between them. The more you try to bribe kids to do something that they don't want to, the harder they're going to resist. Remind them of times they have enjoyed their healthy foods and let them share your enjoyment. You can tell them how tasty those veggies are without shaming dessert. Forbidden and highly controlled foods also become more tempting! Why would they eat their veggies when they'd rather have desserts that are treated as something much more special?monkeybusinessimages/ Getty Images
Explain to your kids that snacks are meant to be mini meals made up of whole foods like fruit, nuts and whole grains (not added sugar) to give them energy between meals. Save treats for special occasions, like movie nights or visits with the grandparents.
Try keeping healthy snacks ready to grab in a hurry and talk to kids about the benefits of whole foods. Prepare to get excited explaining how their veggie sticks and almonds will help them run faster, jump higher, and have lots of energy to keep playing longer!evgenyatamanenko/ Getty Images
Your kid is watching you, so make sure they see you eating vegetables, not skipping breakfast, and even enjoying an occasional treat. When you normalize a healthy diet, it becomes their norm too.
Setting a good example is the single best way to teach kids to have a good relationship with food and their bodies, and that example starts with making sure that your own views and habits are healthy. Kids are even more likely to make healthier choices when they're surrounded by peers who are already good eaters.Jupiterimages/ Getty Images
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