One of the toughest things a parent faces is getting their child to eat healthily and make wholesome food fun for the little ones. Kids prefer sweets and junk food and avoid healthy choices. The fundamental question is WHY? Is this the parent’s fault?
Ask Why Healthy Food Isn’t Fun
Even though I am not a parent just yet, I grew up with younger sisters — lots of them. None of us wanted to eat healthily. It was to our great advantage that our Mom taught us the importance of a balanced diet.
Most friends and acquaintances did not consume the same foods we did. When we asked them why, the answer was always the same: they did not know any wholesome food.
Nowadays, instead of providing healthy choices, many parents choose the path of least resistance, often giving kids what they want. Is this the right way to go? Of course not. One look at high childhood obesity rates in certain countries proves me right.
Simple Solutions to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthily
I’m not trying to make parents/grandparents or relatives feel bad. I want you to feel better about your kids’ options and the choices they will make.
My primary aim is to provide some ideas to teach kids food can be delicious and fun.
Do not treat eating together as an obligation or boring time. My decision to become a Chef was not because I wanted to be famous, be on TV, or make a lot of money. I saw it as a profession where each day was different and challenging.
I always had fun cooking and creating things, just like I did with mom, grandmother, and baby sisters. Make eating and cooking time to share stories, ideas, values.
For me, cooking is an enjoyable and relaxing activity. My sisters shared this passion. This allowed us to have a great time and learn that food can be fun and always delicious.
Connecting With the Food Works Miracles
Let kids touch, smell, and taste the ingredients when cooking.
This promotes a deeper connection with what they’re eating. It also helps them gradually realize that vegetables are not as bad as they imagined.
A lovely example is this precious episode.
One of my sisters hated onions and bell peppers with a passion. She used to tell me that the taste was too strong and nasty.
One day, I chopped the onions and bell peppers into tiny pieces, sauteed them with a bit of sugar, salt, and added juuust a drop of vinegar. I then mixed them with apples, nuts, lettuce, tomatoes, and a maple vinaigrette.
Well, she loved it and devoured it all. When she was older, she prepared the same dishes she learned about, even adding her own creativity. She would use the dish with scrambled eggs or add it as a topping on a hot dog. She now enjoys onions and bell peppers anywhere she goes. It was a winner!
Breaking Bad Habits
There are simple things you can do to support children’s eating habits and don’t be surprised when they ask one day for chicken with salad and mashed potatoes. Success! Here are some things that you can do easily at home that can help your kids to be health-conscious.
One way to help your kids into a healthy lifestyle is to have them cook with you playfully. It is important to keep safety in mind, though. While you cook together, let them play with the food, so they can feel it, smell it, and taste it. They will quickly learn to identify foods and ingredients. Never make them feel any food is an obligation. Make it an interactive, playful experience for them. The big bonus: it teaches them to prepare their own meals.
Wild Imaginations Beckons Creativity
Here is a tip that could help jump-start your child’s creativity. During cooking playtime, allow imagination to flow. Ask them what they think will go great with the meal you’re preparing, for example: if you’re making pasta, ask them what sauce can we put on? What type of meat could we use? Let their imagination create the meal and but do guide them, otherwise, you will always get answers like “let’s put gummy worms in it”, or “put marshmallows on top.” You get the idea…
Paint a Meal
Show your kids balanced creativity. If you are preparing steamed broccoli, you could mix it with a syrup vinaigrette, lightly sweetened gravy, or mix the broccoli with nuts and berries. This ‘taught’ creativity encourages your children to come up with their own recipes. They will find different ways of preparing day-to-day meals. For inspiration, search for countless recipes on the internet. One of the most useful sites I have found is foodnetwork.com. If you are looking for ways to motivate your kids to appreciate vegetables and fruits, here are some of my own recipes:
Chef Sebastian’s Recipes
Avocado Salad With Pineapple
Cut avocado into small squares.
- Mix it with a little lemon juice add salt.
- Combine with pineapple cubes approximately the same size.
- Use sweet pineapple, but if it is fresh and not sweet, add a bit of sugar to taste.
- Mix the goodness thoroughly, and voilá, you have a gorgeous salad.
Caramelized Carrots With Broccoli and Almonds
- Use baby carrots if you can, but regular carrots cut small will also do.
- Cut broccoli into small bunches
- Slice or chop almonds.
- Melt butter in a sauté pan
- Add the vegetables, a little lemon juice or vinegar, and a teaspoon of sugar, and cook until the sugar is melted.
- Add the almonds and serve.
Healthy Ice Cream?
Ice cream is another great way for kids to have fruit.
- Mix or top their favorite ice cream with chopped fruit.
- Add granola or cereal.
- Add some fruit sauce on top, make a great tasting, healthy dessert.
Oh, these are a great way for kids to get plenty of vegetables and fruit.
- Combine carrots with small pieces of celery.
- Add blackberry, banana, and orange juice.
- Add milk and yogurt, sugar to taste, and you have a great healthy drink.
As you can see, food activities can be a fun way for kids to learn to live a healthy life. It is also a great way to support creativity. Remember, when a child feels that eating is an obligation, there will be resistance. But if the cooking experience becomes a fun time of sharing, the kids will look forward to healthy food, and that is what we wanted to achieve.
Share your experience with us when you moved to your host country with your kids. Did your children, or even you, take to the food, or was it difficult for the little ones to adapt to alternative choices and eat healthily?
by: Sebastian Vallejo