October 11, 2012 by thehealthyheartcenter
Getting children to choose healthy foods over sugary or salty snacks can be difficult, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands. It is recommended that elementary and middle school-aged kids get three to five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, however many are not meeting this guideline. It is more common that vegetables are of most concern since as children grow they tend to view them as “gross” and are less willing to consume them.
The Center for Disease Control stated about 17% of children and adolescents age 2-19 are obese, and only project this number to increase. Aside from the multiple health risks associated with obesity, it is also likely for an obese child to become an obese adult, putting them at increased risk later on in life.
Because of how important it is for children to learn healthy habits and get the proper nutrients they need, there are different strategies to try to implement healthy eating into the diet:
1. Start them young. Building a healthy foundation for nutrition is the best thing to do to start good patterns early that they will be more likely to continue as they grow older. The sooner and more often that they see you eating healthy foods, they will be more willing to have them as well.
2. Be persistent. Starting a new behavior takes multiple times before it becomes habitual. It’s important to present healthy foods, specifically vegetables, frequently, even if given bad responses in the beginning. Maintain consistency to include the disliked food in meals 2-3 times per week.
3. Incorporate. It can be very efficient to incorporate healthy foods into a meal that the child already is comfortable with and enjoys. Vegetables can be included in sauces, or added into other meals by pureeing them. Adding them on to pizza is another helpful trick.
4. Offer choices. If a child feels a sense of control over a situation, he/she will be more willing to implement a healthy habit. Offering choices between foods, or options such as vegetable juice that is low in sodium can be helpful. To make meals healthier, alternatives such as whole grain pasta, low-fat dairy products, and green leafy lettuce are a great way to get in those necessary nutrients.
It is also important to limit junk food as often as possible. These foods are filled with empty calories and will not offer the nutritional benefits that growing children need. Ultimately every parent’s approach is their own, but it is important to not give up easily when trying to change your picky eater’s attitude. Although it does take time, in the end it is time well spent!