I’m no stranger to the push/pull that happens when little ones would prefer dessert for dinner….and who can blame them? That concentrated sweet and/or salt is oh so delightful and, if gone unchecked, can make for a palette that drives poor choices more often than not.
In my opinion, healthy eating is about much more than what, when or how much you put into your mouth – it’s a relationship that can involve growing or choosing, storing, washing, prepping, seasoning and cooking – all this before eating. Let’s look at a few ways to foster a healthy relationship between food and your kids.
Grow your own
This can be as simple as planting one edible plant in a pot and placing it near a window, or joining a community garden if you don’t have any land to use.Little ones love to dig and play – let them have some ownership over an area or plant. Show them how to take care of, and nurture their growing food.
Don’t know what to plant? Ask at your local nursery for the best place to start based on the time of year and growing conditions.
Let them choose at the grocery store
I’m not talking about the candy aisle here, bring them over to the produce section and let them choose any item they want. Bosc pear? Go for it. Mis-shaped orange pepper that everyone else has picked over? Absolutely! Weird prickly thing you never heard of – yep (just do an internet search later).
It doesn’t have to be a bag full – you can buy just one. The point is they will be connected to the choice and might be willing to try it as a snack or at meal time.
Washing and prepping
Kids in the kitchen can be bitter sweet (pardon the pun). On one hand, they can be involved and learning about what it takes to put a meal on the table….on the other hand, it can make accomplishing anything in a timely fashion…well…challenging.
No problem! Help them do one simple task – like washing that piece of produce they chose at the grocery store. You know your child’s abilities and limits; keep it simple and quick if necessary.
The point here is to keep them connected to the path their fresh, whole food choices must take, before consumption.
Decorate a water bottle
Drinking water over juice is a better choice for maintaining a reasonable palette and reducing concentrated sugar consumption.
Give them some ownership – suggest they decorate a water bottle with their favorite stickers.
If you can spare the extra dollars, try a water bottle with a fruit infuser – perhaps that piece of fruit they washed could go in there (it’s still not even close to being a ‘sugary drink’).
Making it work for you (and them)
Involving the little ones in healthy food-based activities can be cheap or expensive, quick or time consuming, messy or clean. Choose what works for your family in a way that you can sustain so that a routine can be formed. Who knows? You just might learn something new yourself. I know I have.
Jason DaMaren is a registered dietitian at Grand River Hospital. He supports patients in the medicine program who are dealing with chronic illness. Jason’s passionate about helping patients overcome nutrition barriers through their medical journey.