I remember my elementary school cafeteria days like it was yesterday. Every year I’d get to pick out a new, super cool lunch box and my mom would pack me some type of sandwich and a couple snacks to go along with it. That was great and all, but what was even better was when you’d convince your cafeteria buddy to swap out your less than appealing snacks (how did those carrot sticks get in here?!) for their pudding or graham crackers.
Getting kids to eat healthy is hard! You can’t just try to reason with them or explain the nutritional benefits of broccoli and kale. With these 7 tricks, you can go into this school year armed with the secrets you need to get your kids eating healthy- without the tantrums!
The Most Important Meal of The Day
Mornings can certainly be hectic when it comes to getting kids to school on time, but that’s no excuse to send your kids running out the door without something in their belly- or at least in their hand! Skipping breakfast is a no-no. Whether you are able to cook something up before they leave or you are throwing a travel-friendly meal in their hand as they chase the bus, kids needs breakfast. That fuel will help them focus throughout the day and nourish their growing bodies. (See a list of great breakfast options further down)
Appearance is Everything
Packing a healthy lunch for your child is hard enough. Add in the fact that they may try to trade it out with the other kids for something “better” and the odds are seriously against you. Do your best to make his or her food look not just tasty, but fun. Use different colors and cut out shapes or put dips like hummus or nut butter in a bright colored cupcake wrapper instead of just plopped in a boring container.
Compartments Are Key
There are some great compartmentalized lunch boxes and to-go containers out there that allow you to keep each food or each ingredient separated for the extra picky eater who doesn’t like their foods to touch (which is most kids at some phase in their childhood, no?). This is a simple fix to make most kids way more likely to eat the foods you’ve taken the time to pack.
After School Snacks
Have snacks set out or prepped in the fridge for when the kids come home from school. If you can’t be there to prepare something for them, they are going to reach for the easiest options- packaged or frozen food. If you have a snack or two waiting for them, they are way more likely to munch on something a whole lot healthier.
Make it a Team Effort
Allowing your kids to have input on what they are eating makes them feel like they’re part of the process and lets them feel like they are deciding what they eat instead of mom and dad constantly telling them what to do. Let them pick out their favorite snack or a lunch to have one day each week. On taco night, have all the toppings out and let them choose which ones they want. You can do the same for pizza night. Using a whole wheat crust, set out tons of colorful toppings and let everyone make their own pizza. The more your children are involved in the process, the less they will fight it.
Remember, They’re Just Kids!
While we may be very disciplined in what we eat (well, most of the time, right?), kids are… well, kids! You can’t expect them to eat everything you want them to or to appreciate the nutrients in a brussel sprout. By using these steps we’ve just discussed, it will make getting nourishing food into your child a whole lot easier. But there will still be those days. Kids are going to inevitably be kids, but by implementing a healthy lifestyle as much as possible, it makes those moments when they have an ice cream cone or enjoy a slice of pizza okay. We’re only human and all you can do is your best for your children.
The Sooner, The Better
The earlier on in your child’s life that you start introducing them to a wide variety of foods and adding in fruits and vegetables, the less push back you will get. If you include veggies and low sugar foods as a regular part of their meals and avoid things like artificial colors and food dyes, they won’t know any different. It’s when you wait until your child is 6 to all of a sudden start demanding they eat broccoli and carrots that you see a strong resistance. If that is you, don’t be discouraged though! It just takes time and some clever tricks like we’ve already talked about.
- no-cook refrigerator oatmeal (make ahead, recipe here)
- egg quiches (make ahead and refrigerate or freeze for convenience)
- eggs and breakfast meat (use natural food coloring for green eggs and ham!)
- whole wheat or gluten-free pancakes (make ahead and freeze for convenience)
- whole wheat toast with nut butter and banana or strawberries
- hard boiled egg and blueberries
- smoothie (a fantastic way to get lots of nutrients into your child, here’s a few recipes to try)
- yogurt and berries
- whole wheat waffle with nut butter and banana or berries
- whole wheat egg mcmuffin (homemade, of course!)
- piece of fruit
- celery pieces or apple slices and nut butter
- bite-size veggies or apple slices with hummus
- bite-size veggies with ranch-style dip (go for more natural or dairy-free if necessary)
- organic fruit snacks (free of artificial colors and dyes)
- banana and nut butter
- whole wheat crackers with cheese
- string cheese
- hard boiled egg
- pasta salad with veggies
- nuts and seeds
- corn chips with mild or fruit-based salsa
- fruit salad (make fruit skewers to change it up too)
- sweet potato salad
- healthy trail mix (popcorn, craisins, almonds, etc)
- Fruit juices mixed with water (Water should always be your first option, but this is great if you’re weaning them off juice.)