It’s the parental cry heard all around the globe: please, just take one more bite!
Many know the patience, strength, and endurance it takes to get our kids to eat those essential healthy meals each day. We also know how important it is that kids get those important nutritional benefits and nourishment from their fruits and veggies. So, how do you get kids to eat more healthy stuff without losing your sanity? The answer might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how effective cooking (and gardening) with your children can be.
Here are some easy tips to get you and your picky eaters started:
Starting at the Root
As organic options become more and more common in local grocery stores, it’s a great chance to start educating kids about all them. Beyond fruits and veggies, there are even organic spices on the market these days. Exposing kids early on to the importance of organic products and, of course, spicing your meals just right helps show them all the decisions that go into meals.
They’ll probably ask to put sugar on everything, giving you the perfect chance to show them that sugar doesn’t make everything taste better (not even broccoli). Instead, they can taste and learn just how delicious Brussel sprouts, squash, potatoes, and more can become with the right combo of seasonings and spices.
Growing a Green Thumb
In addition to cooking, encouraging your kids to grow their own can really kick-start their appetites. Starting with the seeds, take this time to explain to them how different fruit and veggies have different benefits. For example, vitamins A, C and E help with the health of our eyes. Explain to them that we can grow these important vitamins in colourful fruits and vegetables such as bell peppers, citrus fruit, berries, and more. You’ll foster a better understanding of diet while also giving them an opportunity to make their own decisions.
Given the hard work that goes into cultivating a garden, kids will gain a sense of pride when they can finally bake up some delicious eggplant or roasted carrots, making it more likely that they’ll finish their plate. Instead of relying on, “Eat it, it’s good for you!” try explaining and showing them how it’s good for them. Sometimes, the stubbornness stems from a lack of understanding. Sometimes.
Sprouting Into the Future
It goes without saying that many aspects of parenthood tend to focus on helping children grow into healthy, happy, functioning members of society. Eventually, kids leave the nest and it’s up to parents to give them wings that can fly. As kids grow up, teaching them how to cook up delicious, healthy meals means they can take those skills with them to college.
Learning how to cook doesn’t only help with their hunger, but it creates a better relationship with food overall, leading to better decision-making skills. They’ll know to avoid (sometimes harmful) fad diets and decrease unnecessary stress around eating. Of course, it will also be sure to impress future dates as well.
If you’re not already, moving towards a vegetarian diet with your family can help spark creativity in the kitchen. Getting kids to cook with you is one thing, but showing them just how versatile (and tasty) all veggie meals can be will be mind-blowing for them. Take classic dishes your family likes, like meatloaf or pot pie, and find a vegetarian (or vegan!) version of them.
Mushrooms are a great substitute for meat and tend to soak up a lot of flavours. Adding a little zing of red pepper flakes to a plant-based soup can really make bland veggies pop. While you don’t have to completely switch over to a vegetarian lifestyle overnight, going more green will inspire kids to live a healthy lifestyle later in life (see above). It can take some getting used to, but creativity in the kitchen fosters more bonding time with your kids and memories they’ll hang onto forever.
At the end of the day, finding what works for your family is key. Maybe you cook together three times a week or the kids get to pick what’s for dinner on Sundays — you could even talk about finding ways to be more eco-conscious cooks. Cooking and gardening certainly require some patience, but you’ll be setting them up for a successful life down the road, as well as helping them get all those important nutrients they need to grow big and strong. Good luck!