Let’s get practical with my five greatest motivators for preschool children to eat healthy foods.
If the foods in the house are healthy, kids will pick their favorites from among healthy choices.
Often kids’ fruit alternatives are restricted to apples and bananas, and maybe grapes or oranges. Many kids love peaches, tangerines, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, plums, pears, watermelon, and pineapple.
Try oatmeal with fresh berries.
The younger you start, the quicker they will develop their tastes in these directions. During the preschool years, make butter a treat for vegetables. Butter on green beans makes them a lot tastier. Because of the crunch, many kids like raw carrot sticks all by themselves.
When feeding your kids, you are competing against multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns. Children’s TV has many commercials for sweetened breakfast cereals (part of this nutritious breakfast — which would be far more nutritious without the sweetened breakfast cereal!). Where are the commercials for fresh veggies? They’ll have to come from us. Preschool children often love food that is shaped like something interesting–a face, a clown, a dinosaur, a favorite hero, etc. Processed macaroni is manufactured this way because it sells. In this environment, we need to make healthy food as appealing as the empty or harmful alternatives. Try a whole-grain pancake with a strawberry for a nose, kiwi slices for eyes, and banana for the mouth. Brush its teeth with the fork before eating (since after eating it won’t have any teeth left!). Try corn on the cob served standing up (it’s a rocket ship), or lying down with a toothpick stuck in the side (it’s a submarine–the toothpick is the periscope).
Stealth health is not my go-to strategy, but when all else fails make zucchini bread or carrot muffins. Add shaved vegetables or pieces of fruit to virtually any baked good. Dried cranberries can be a hit (while dried fruit is high in sugar, it is also high in fiber).
A great way to hide fruit and vegetables is in whole-food smoothies. High-speed blenders, such as the models manufactured by Vita-Mix (not juice extractors that take the pulp and fiber–and many nutrients–out) can turn fresh oranges, carrots, and yogurt into a delicious treat. Two recently published cookbooks, The Sneaky Chef and Deceptively Delicious, offer more ideas on how to hide the healthy stuff!
Now that we have mass advertising, children’s fun meals, and peer pressure, the battle is all the harder. But the battle is worthwhile, and it can certainly be fun.
The battle should never be with your kids. Never push. Entice them, persuade them, teach them. Battle bad nutrition.
More Information on Healthy Eating:
Healthy Eating, Part I – How important is good nutrition?
Healthy Eating, Part II – What foods do children need? What foods should be avoided?
Healthy Eating, Part III – The five greatest motivators for preschool children to eat healthy foods.
Healthy Eating, Part IV – Motivators for school-age children and adolescents.
Healthy Eating, Part V – Good news for vegetable haters everywhere!