By Sue Teske, MS, RD, CNSC; Clinical Nutrition Director at Children’s of Alabama
Getting your child to eat healthy is not always an easy task. As the Clinical Nutrition Director at Children’s, I am often asked how to get children to eat healthy. In a world full of readily available fast food, pre-packagedand processed junk foods; it can be challenging to get kids to eat the foods that are good for them. Food manufacturers use blatant and subtle marketing techniques directed to children on television, in magazines and in grocery stores. Friends and other kids at school who do not have healthy eating habits may influence your child. As a Registered Dietitian let me make a few suggestions to get your kids involved and learn about nutrition and healthy eating.
Involve your child in planning lunches and making healthy choices. Kids love hands-on activities. Making school lunches together is the perfect way to get your kids involved in the healthy eating process and helping out. It also opens the door for conversations about different food groups, how food is fuel, regular physical activity and many other healthy habit topics. Give your kids choices between different healthy options. Ask if they would rather have an apple or a banana as their fruit or celery or carrots as their vegetable. Variety will keep your kids interested in healthy eating while teaching them how to make healthy decisions for themselves.
Make healthy lunches fun! Use cookie cutters to make shapes out of sandwiches. Buy your child a lunchbox with his or her favorite character on it. Write notes on your child’s napkin. Make creative side items at home together and let your kids come up with a special name. Have you ever heard of ants on a log (celery sticks, filled with peanut butter and topped with raisins)? What about a pasta salad made with colorful veggie bow tie pasta? Make a mini lunch – two turkey and cheese mini bagels, cherry tomatoes and mini pretzels. Have a weekly lunch theme – on Hawaiian week, swap their usual drink for sugar-free, coconut-flavored water. Let your child decorate their brown paper bag. Don’t be afraid to get creative!