If you are having a minor freakout about my seven-month old choking, don’t worry! I assure you there is a method to the madness here. It’s called Baby Led Weaning and it plays a role in this second part of Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy.
Part II: Tips for Getting Your Kids to Eat Healthy
Now that we’ve learned our roles as caregivers and kiddos when it comes to food from Part I, it is time to focus on specific ways we can support and encourage our little ones to make healthy food decisions all by themselves. In this post we’ll cover introducing new foods, involving kids in grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking, as well as making eating just plain fun!
Right from the very start, expose kids to as many food textures and flavors as possible, including what mom eats while breastfeeding and pregnant not just baby’s first bites at six months, and be persistent.
- “One of the main things we know about taste is that liking is a consequence of familiarity, so the things that our mothers eat, even before we’re born, affect the way we’ll respond to those flavors when we later encounter them because they seem familiar.” NPR’s, In Baby’s ‘First Bite,’ A Chance To Shape A Child’s Taste
- Note: I disagree with the author’s advice on feeding a baby before six months. From my research, their digestive system is not developed enough to properly handle food until six months.
- One of the best ways you can do this is by practicing Baby Led Weaning when it’s time to introduce solid foods to your babe! This method skips the purees and introduces your little one directly to the same foods you are eating. Not only does this build confident, adventurous eaters, it also saves you serious prep time. Though there’s some clean-up involved…. There are specific things that you want to know before using this method to ensure it is safe, so make sure you read up on it before trying it!
- I look forward to sharing my second Baby Led Weaning journey with you in about seven months when the babe in my belly is ready for solids 😀 Feel free to reach out with any questions before then!
Don’t Be Afraid of Offering New Foods to Toddlers and Beyond.
- Even if your kids are older, rest assured that it is never too late to offer them a variety of flavors and textures! The key to successfully introducing new foods (or ones that they haven’t liked in the past) is to make it fun and avoid forcing the issue while remaining persistent over the long term. If kids don’t like something today they may like it tomorrow, a week from now, or prepared in a different way.
- One of the common phrases you’ll hear around our dinner table when new foods are presented is: “who is ready to take an adventure bite?!” (a Mary Murphy special). This is your time as a parent to be extra enthusiastic about the food you are eating. I also remind Little Miss that she can spit out a new food if she doesn’t like it; all she has to do it try, there’s no pressure to like!
- Books about trying new foods can also be persuasive. Here are some of our favorites:
Get them involved in choosing healthy foods and meals.
- Bring you kids to the grocery store or farmer’s market with you (with snacks for them to munch on) and ask them if they want x or y. By giving them two healthy choices they get the power of choice while you get the guarantee of a health outcome. Much better for you than just asking them what they want!
- For example: “Yum, that butternut squash look delicious. Do you want to get that, the acorn squash, or both?!”
- Older kids can help you with meal planning and/or creating the grocery list. This gets them invested from the start. Another bonus: they will have a harder time complaining about what’s for dinner if they were involved in creating the plan!
- Have older kids write down what foods they like or want to try from these healthy food lists:
Get them involved in the cooking process!
- Have your little one sit up on the counter with you or stand on a chair to help you prep meals. You’ll notice kids will try almost any food they are helping cut, wash, etc. This might mean they eat less at dinner, but I say get in healthy food whenever and wherever you can!
- Check out this article for tips on getting kids involved in cooking
- If they aren’t interested in helping you prepare a meal, you might ask them if they want to sample what you are prepping. Little Miss loves getting samples in little containers.
- Have meals where they get to choose what toppings go on their plate. Some popular recipes we eat regularly are:
- Let younger kids “help” pack their lunch and older kids do it on their own!
- For younger kids, ask them what they want in their lunch in the two questions format, “What sounds more yummy to you, a peanut butter and banana sandwich or spaghetti and cheese like we had last night?”
- For yourself and older kids, print out, “Creating an Easy and Healthy Lunch” infographic and use it as a guide for both grocery shopping and putting lunches together.
- Ask your older kids to make a grocery list from the foods in the infographic.
Make eating fun!
- Set aside some extra time once a week or month for a food project!
- You can do things as simple and quick as making fruit kabobs, smoothies, or using cookie cutters to make sandwich shapes. As your kids get older they can even help with the planning process, adding to the bonding time.
- Presentation is everything when it comes to eating (for adults and kiddos alike)! I’m not saying you need to create a Michelin-starred plate, but the more appetizing it looks the better!
- It helps to have multiple colors on the plate, different heights or shapes of food, and attractive flatware.
- Buy inviting and appropriately sized cups, utensils, bowls, and plates for your little ones so they can happily and easily maneuver food and drink into their mouths.
To empowering kids to make healthy choices on their own! Chris