It’s exhausting to spend so much time cooking for your family, just to have them barely touch any of it. But at the same time, giving into their demands for Goldfish and PB&J’s everyday isn’t really a great option either. In an ideal world kids would be born loving leafy greens and chia seeds, but alas, that is not the world we live in.
Having a two-year-old and four-year-old, I’m in the thick of dealing with food battles. Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but it is possible to get picky eaters to eat healthy foods. Here’s a few tips, as well as my favorite easy meal solution that never fails!
Choose kid-friendly healthy meals
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Guys, let’s be real here. The chances of your 5-year-old having a palette advanced enough for gourmet stuffed mushrooms is very slim. (Are stuffed mushrooms considered gourmet? I might be showing my own lack of refinement here… haha!)
The best way to get kids into a meal is to keep it simple. For us less refined folks, we follow a little method called K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). Kids do not care how much love and time you put into their meal; if they think it looks weird, they won’t eat it!
Make your life easier by providing simple, whole food options for them. And try to always include at least one thing you know they will eat. There’s nothing worse than a meal standoff where the only two options are for you to give in and get the animal crackers, or they leave the table hungry.
Now this is the part where I have to admit I am the WORST at eating healthy. If I ever have a fleeting thought about eating healthier, my brain makes me go buy a baguette to right my wrongs. So it’s hard to consistently put healthy foods in front of my children, and even harder to find healthy foods they’ll actually eat!
Dinnertime made easy with Nurture Life
So, I keep it simple. Our new favorite way to do dinnertime is by using Nurture Life. It’s a subscription food service that makes it easier than ever to always have a healthy meal available for your kids each evening!
Nurture Life offers truly healthy and organic meals that are specifically designed for kids. Yep, that includes those picky eaters of yours! What I really love is the meals are made-to-order and have a relatively short shelf-life, so you know there aren’t any weird preservatives in there.
There are different age groups on the menu, so you can get serving sizes according to their age. You can even get food for your 10 month old, cut into age-appropriately sized pieces! I’m so glad I have this available for when my 5 month old starts eating bites of food in a few months because I hate having to prep baby food lol.
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Ahhh convenience. It’s beautiful. Here’s a few more tips to get those picky eaters to eat healthy foods.
Let them help prepare meals
You already know I’m a big fan of getting kids involved in the kitchen, but this is another benefit to it! Cooking together is a great bonding activity, provides opportunities to learn, and– yep! It can encourage them to actually eat their food.
Think about it, aren’t you more invested in something you took part in? Let them help prepare in any way that is appropriate. Even if they just sprinkle some cheese on top, they will love that you made the meal together. And it may just be what they needed to take that first bite!
Set clear rules ahead of time
This is one I struggled with before finally realizing it’s importance. I am of the opinion that kids thrive under structure and with a clear understanding of what we expect of them. This is just as true at mealtime!
Have a list of rules for meals that work for your family, and try to not deter from it. This helps to avoid power struggles. Not to say they won’t still resist meals, but you have a solid place to fall back on by calmly restating the rules and let that be that.
A big rule in our house, for example, is that you don’t have to finish your food if you’re full, but you can’t have any dessert if you don’t. If you’re too full to eat, you’re too full for dessert!
Right along with that is also my responsibility to make sure I plate their food considerately. It’s not really fair to give them an entire bowl of chili and then say they have to finish it or no dessert, when I know they wouldn’t eat more than half a bowl. The important thing is to just make sure the rules are easy to understand and fair.
Consider their preferences
No short order cooking in this house! But that doesn’t mean I can reasonably expect my kids to go crazy over the spicy Cajun Alfredo I love to make. To that end, I think it’s best to compromise and acknowledge that kids do have preferences.
When planning out meals for the week, be aware of your kids’ likes and dislikes. If the family is having chicken parm, but one of your kids can’t stand red sauce, make one of the chicken pieces without sauce. Easy peasy, and it lets them know they’re being thought of, which I’ve noticed does wonders overall with power struggles.
One and done rule
Whenever we make something new in our house, the rule is you have to try it, but you don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it. Some things I already know ahead of time that they really won’t like, so I don’t push that. But then there are flavors that they simply haven’t tried before, and those I like to encourage at least a little taste.
Sometimes it takes a few attempts at trying a new food before they really start to like it. Offering it multiple times and in various forms can eventually get them accustomed to the new flavor. We have to remember that their taste buds are SO much more prominent than ours, so flavors can seem way stronger to them.
Read about the benefits of healthy food
This is a great activity to get picky eaters to eat healthy foods AWAY from the dinner table. Just like anything else, kids learn through reading, playing, and experiencing. Reading is a powerful tool that people think of for many scenarios, but may overlook when it comes to food struggles.
My kids LOVE being read to, and will ask tons of questions about the stories. It can be quite tiresome, but it’s always a great opportunity to learn. We have one book in particular that we received from our favorite kids subscription box, Good Enough to Eat. It explains the different food groups, why they’re important, and even has a few easy recipes to make together at the end!
My daughter is currently fascinated by where every part of her meals come from. For an easy example, when we have salads I explain how each of the veggies were grown in the ground and harvested by farmers. We’ve come to the conclusion that nearly every meal can be attributed back to farmers in some way, so needless to say we <3 farmers in our house haha.
There are tons of other great ideas out there, it’s all about finding what works for your kiddos. These are the tips that have worked wonders for us to get our picky eaters to eat healthy foods. And if you struggle with coming up with healthy meals like I do, don’t forget that there’s an easier option out there that’s designed specifically for your kids. (Use discount code GROWINGCREATIVES to get $15 off your first order)
May the odds be ever in your favor!