Ashlee is a busy mom. She has three active sons, demanding church responsibilities, and a husband working night shifts. And yet, her house is clean and orderly, she is always uplifting and kind, and what is most amazing, her kids love to eat vegetables! If it were me, I would be tempted to give them TV dinners every night before bed. Oh, and did I mention that she throws the cutest parties ever? I love how every day is a celebration in their family! I still need to find out how she manages to keep a clean house and throw an awesome party, but at least I found out how she gets her kids to eat healthy.
Here are her tricks to getting kids to like eating healthy food:
-I don't keep many unhealthy things around the house. If the only options are healthy... you can bet they will end up eating one of them! The key is consistency. If kids discover that if they can just hold out long enough a more "desirable," option will be presented,then they will hold out. If on the other hand, they are conditioned to know that you either eat the healthy food or you go hungry... well... my kids choose to eat the healthy options. And they actually like them! They know that I don't buy fruit snacks or crackers, so they don't ask for them! They ask for the things they know that we have... which I do my best to keep healthy. We do eat unhealthy things, but I try to do it away from our home, and not every day. -I try to let them eat their favorite healthy options whenever possible- for Alaster that means I keep apples and grapes on hand at all times. For Jack I keep almonds. -I use fruit that they love as a reward instead of treats most nights "If you finish all of your dinner, you get WATERMELON!" It is amazing to me that watermelon is seen as a treat in their eyes even though we eat it for snacks all the time and I don't try to limit it their consumption. But they love it so much that they will push through eating their less desired veggies (cooked spinach comes to mind)! -We have a regular treat every friday to accompany our movie night. I think this helps them know that they have a treat coming up to look forward to so that they can grin and bear it now when I say no to a treat earlier in the week "Nope, sorry. I'm not making a treat today. But remember! it's almost friday!" I think it's good for children to develop patience as well. I also let them choose the treats 2 out of every 3 weeks so it really is something that they are excited about.
**On Friday night pretty much anything goes... cookies, cupcakes, ice cream... whatever they want! We have a rotating schedule of who is choosing the movie and the treat. If it's your night for the treat mom will make what you wish or we will even go to the store and buy what you want (within reason of course, I do have some restrictions and rules that just make common sense). It's a fun family tradition, and definitely something we all look forward to. While I want my kids to eat healthy on a regular basis, I also think it's important to satisfy cravings on occasion too. I want them to enjoy all aspects of eating and learn how to indulge appropriately. I think denying them altogether would be counter productive. I knew kids growing up who weren't allowed any, and I really do mean ANY, sugar at home, and when they went to friends houses they were out of control sugar fiends!
Certainly a mommy philosophy I live by (for food and for so, so much more) is that what you do every day matters so much more than what you do every once and a while. So if I am daily feeding my children food that will nourish them in the best way that I know how... come Friday night... I am totally okay with them eating treats!**
-I know my kids favorite dips- it's been proven that kids are much more likely to eat things when they get to dip it in something! For instance: Alaster loves to dip fresh veggies in poppyseed dressing. -I try and make food a positive experience and not a power struggle. Our meal times are fun, happy occasions where we talk and keep things light. It's a great time to listen to our children, and if in my listening I discover something that needs to be discussed seriously, I save it for later. I know that I will remember, and I think it's more important that meal times be happy times. -I have found that letting kids help cook the meal gets them invested in it, and more likely to eat it when the time comes. Jack professes to hate cooked carrots, but if I let him do the peeling and chopping... they are the carrots HE MADE and he is telling everyone "I made these!" as he pops them in his mouth. -I am persistent. Babies and toddlers can tell me all they want that they don't like a certain food, but I will continue to try and at least get one or two bites in each time. They eventually come around! Truman is a good example. For a long time he would NOT eat anything remotely green, but I didn't stop trying after many, many rejections... and now he loves broccoli!
-Teach them about nutrition! My boys find it interesting to know how what they are eating for dinner is going to do to their body. They can tell you about protein and fiber, vitamin A and calcium. They can also tell you why whole grains are better than refined, and why trans fat is no good! I think we often think we need gimmicks to "trick," kids into eating healthily, and I admit that I use my fair share, but heck... knowing reasons WHY it is important to do things is motivating for me, I shouldn't assume that just because they are young that it will not matter to them. I have found my boys actually do care. They find it interesting and especially like to make associations that matter to them... Jack for instance is very concerned about being strong and fast, so protein matters to him!