I don’t really have a problem getting my kids to eat healthy foods, because I’ve mastered a few simple tricks. I acquired these super secret strategies in different ways, but they are all kid-tested, mother-approved.
Lead by example
I almost never eat sweets or junk food in front of the kids. If they never see me eating unhealthy foods, they won’t eat it either. That’s right, it’s as simple as that.
WAIT. Don’t stop reading. I didn’t say I never eat junk food, I just don’t do it in front of the kids. Instead, I play a little game called “Hide-And-Eat.” Whenever I want to sneak in a quick treat, I excuse myself from responsible parenting and sneak off for some “private” time. Oh come on…a spoonful of peanut butter and nutella isn’t going to kill me! (although it’s doing nothing to help me lose weight).
So the key is, never let them see you eating unhealthily. If you get a craving, sneak off and cheat a bit while no one is looking. If no one sees you…it didn’t happen. Just don’t do it too often!
Lemon + Oil
You remember in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when the patriarch of the family uses Windex as a cure for anything? Well Cypriots do something similar as their Greek cousins. When it comes to food, a dash of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon make any food edible. Seriously.
Can you imagine serving boiled cabbage to your kids? Well, this is what happens when I “cook” cabbage in my house:
My kids literally climb over each other to fork the last bits of boiled cabbage. It’s hilarious to watch!
This tip works for almost any food: veggies, soup, meats, pasta (I know, gross right?), fish and shellfish.
Tell them the truth
I used to lie to my kids all the time…and you do to. You know that little story about the Tooth Fairy, the one that costs you $1 per tooth?
Exactly…parents lie to their kids all the time.
But I’ve stopped lying when it comes to food. I stopped sheltering them from knowing where food comes from because they deserve to know the truth. The younger you get them to understand what real food is, the faster they’ll be able to make their own decisions about health.
I do give them a balance of good and bad. They know what to avoid: processed meats and artificial sugars because of their links to cancers. They also know what to eat: nuts, cold water fish and veggies. We also talk about eating organic as much as we can so we avoid eating poisons (aka pesticides).
At 5 years old Lil S definitely grasps these concepts. Especially because I make it relevant to her life. Like right now I know she is going through a very vanity-based stage in her life, so I play into that. I tell her what fruits and veggies help make her hair glow (avocados) and her eyes beautiful (carrots).
For Big K I keep it completely real because he’s old enough to be exposed to deeper issues. I show him videos about how animals are slaughtered and how obesity is one of the largest problems of his generation. I don’t have an aversion to slaughtering animals for food, but I don’t agree with the over-consumption of meats which has led to the disgusting treatment animals receive before and during the slaughter process.
Obviously as a parent you know whether your child is mature enough to understand these concepts. If you are unsure, test out the waters by asking where they think food comes from. I think you’ll be shocked to learn most kids don’t know where food comes from!