How I get my kids to eat healthy food
Of course kids copy whatever they see us doing. But there is a couple of extra tricks to motivate them to eat Whole Foods.
“Mommy is a salad monster” squeaks Noah with delight. I am laughing, of course he is right. “What kind of a monster are you?” I want to know. “I am a pasta monster!”, says my son looking down at his plate. “And I am a broccoli monster!”, Zoe joins the conversation. So we are all monsters that evening. Zoe and Noah find a monster name for every single relative and we stick macaronis on our finger tips to be real monsters with long claws.
Kids love to have fun while they are eating. The monster theme can be a good subject for a discussion at dinner but it is also a great subject for decorating the plate. You may use olives for the eyes, tomato slices for the lips and tiny cheese bits for the teeth of the omelette monster for example. Homemade strawberry jam is the perfect blood if you are building a real mean monster!
There is a couple of other tricks I use to keep my children interested in healthy food.
- We go shopping together. I ask them if they can help me and they they always say yes. They love choosing vegetables and fruits together with me. We discuss menu plans while pushing the trolley and of course they try everything they are offered by kind promotion girls or shop assistants who must assume that I don’t feed my kids because they ask for more most of the time.
- We cook together. I call Noah “my little chef”. He proudly wears his apron and the chef’s hat. Whereas he loves doing all the work from scratch, Zoe is not interested in peeling and chopping vegetables. She only likes to model figures with dough or decorate plates and pastries. But she is very good at complimenting Noah for all the work he did in her place.
- I make surprises. I invite guests over for dinner, put on some piano music or light candles for no specific reason. They love that kind of surprises.
- I explain to my kids why the particular food is good for them. I never tell them to eat up what is in their plate without explaining why it is important for their body. I would for example tell them that our friend Bodybuilder Serdar Aktolga eats lots of chickpeas because they are loaded with protein and that he needs it to build up muscle and become one of the strongest men in the world.
- We always sit down at the dining table and eat all together. Sharing a meal and a conversation is priceless to me. I love listening to my kids giggling while telling me a story from school or fighting for my attention by exaggerating things they have observed during the day. Since they are at school for lunch, breakfast and dinner is always family time.
- I am their role model. My kids witness me eating huge portions of food. They have never seen me or heard me talk about a diet. They know that mommy loves salad and vegetables, but also cheesecake and chocolate cookies. The food message I am sending out is: Eating lots and having dessert is fine as long as you do sports.
- I divide the day in 3 main meals and 2 snacks. If they are home, I usually give them cucumbers or carrots as a snack before lunch and make fruits their second snack. Sometimes we eat all together while doing homework or we pack the snacks in a bag and have a little picnic in the park.
- I introduce new foods slowly. Most kids are not very enthusiastic about trying new foods. I set the rule that they have to try a tiny little spoon of something but that they don’t need to eat more if they didn’t like the taste. It sometimes takes several tries for their taste buds to get used to new flavours. So even if they didn’t like a dish, I make them try again after a while.
- I allow my kids to eat dessert every day. My kids eat extremely healthy so when they crave some dessert after dinner, I give my permission unless they had their dessert earlier in the day already. I do try to offer them more healthy options like fruit though. They love dry strawberries and “sucuk” which is a kind of sausage made from grapes and filled with nuts.
- I try not to use food as a reward or bribe. I don’t want my kids to have a negative relationship with food. If I give chocolate to Noah because he fell down and is crying, he will eventually develop comfort eating as an adult.