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How to Get Your Kids to Eat Better

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Oh, the struggle of parenting! Trying to raise a healthy kid in today’s processed world is ​NOT easy.

There are food commercials glamorizing sugar-coated cereal, packaging made just for kids in pretty colors and designs, everyone and their mothers trying to pass off candy and “treats” to kids that don’t belong to them, fast food commercials showing off “must-have” toys…there are so many things working against a mom just trying to raise her kid to eat real FOOD.

Then there’s the kid. We love these hungry little monsters, but let’s face it, kids can be brats. (That’s probably why they’re created cute..so we don’t​ ​completely go insane.) And once they have the first taste of something sweet and sugary — or salty and processed — they want more. And for some reason (!!??#&), they’re terrified of new vegetables. Momming would be so much easier if our little monsters would just eat what we tell them to!

If you aren’t the type of mom who’s willing to give in and let your kid have toaster pastries and sugary cereal for breakfast, there are a few things you can do to get them eating real, whole, healthy food.

  • Be an example. ​For the most part, kids tend to model after their parents. If they see you eating a crap-filled diet, they’re going to think that’s an okay way to eat. But the same goes for healthy food. If you are eating a plate full of veggies on a regular basis, they’re going to notice and think that’s a normal way of eating. Make it a “monkey see, monkey do” situation, not “do as I s​ay, not as I do.” ​You are the biggest influence here.
  • Only cook one meal. ​I’ve been guilty of this in the past, and I know so many other moms who’ll cook a meal for mom and dad… and a kid-friendly meal. Seriously, too much work. Keep it simple and offer your kids the same thing you eat.
  • Keep bad food out of the ho​use. ​Guess what? ​YOU are the parent! You are the one that decides what food your kitchen is stocked with, not the kids. Fill the shelves with healthy choices and don’t even have junk “food” as an option. Out of sight, out of mind!
  • Don’t use dessert as a reward. ​This creates bad eating habits and can lead to weight gain in the future. It’s important that kids learn to eat dinner to nourish their little bodies, not learn to clear their plates so they can be rewarded with sugary crap.
  • Make “treats” from real food. ​Having something sweet every now and then is a fun treat that you and your kids can enjoy together. But it doesn’t have to be cake or ice cream. There are treats that can be made from whole foods that are absolutely delicious, like avocado brownies, fruit by itself or even topped with coconut whipped cream (YUM), banana and nut butter smoothies (with added spinach or kale…they’ll never even know!), and Pinterest is flooded with amazing paleo dessert recipes.
  • Chill out and ​let kids play with food! ​Who really cares if your kid touches a piece of broccoli with their fingers because he’s standing it up like a little tree? Let him build “snowmen” with little tomatoes and make “mountains” out of sweet potatoes. It really isn’t that big of a deal. Kids are curious about new things and want to explore. The more familiar he gets with the food, the more likely he is to try it…and enjoy it. Which brings me to the next point…
  • Introduce a variety of foods​, ​possibly several times ​before a kiddo will even touch it. For some reason kids are terrified of new foods. Rather than traumatizing them into eating something new, just offer it over and over. They’re eventually going to try it…don’t give up!
  • Let them be involved in cooking. ​They may not be big enough to operate a stove or cut with a sharp knife, but there are little things they can do to help. If you’re cutting up veggies, let them throw the veggies in a bowl, let them crack the eggs (this can be messy), let them stir it up! Let them be involved in how the meal is made and they’ll most likely be proud and excited to eat it!
  • Pack healthy snacks when out and about. ​If you’re going to be away from the house for any amount of time, your little monsters will start getting hungry. Avoid having to make a stop for fast, convenient junk food and pack some snacks to go. Some personal favs of mine (and by mine, I mean my son): The New Primal Snack Mates for Kids (a clean meat snack packed with protein), Larabars, Simple Mills Farmhouse Cheddar Almond Flour Crackers, and of course fruit (bananas are just too easy).
  • Educate them. ​The word educate is so boring, I know. But seriously, talk to them. Tell them ​why we eat. Tell them how food nourishes their bodies. Teach them the difference between food and “fake food” (AKA processed garbage). They’ll listen, and although they’ll still sometimes make poor food choices, at least they’ll have the information to make smart choices when you’re not around.
  • Show them where food comes from. ​Better yet, if you can, grow food with them. Kids tend to be proud of the food that came from seeds they planted. My son now loves snacking on tomatoes because he’s so proud of his very own tomato plant! You don’t need a full garden. Just a pot filled with soil and a seed are all you need. If you can’t grow food, take them to someone who does (like a local farmer).And finally…
  • Relax. ​Parenting is hard enough without having to worry about another thing. Take a deep breath and know you’re doing a great job. Chances are if you care enough to stress about it your kid is going to turn out just fine!

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By Kristina Neumeyer