How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy Snacks: A tutorial

Let me just start by saying the title of this post is rather tongue-in-cheek.  I mean, I have (what I think is) some good advice to give on the subject, however I don’t really have a step-by-step guide to tell you how to get your kids to eat healthier.  Sorry if I misled you.  What is that called again?  Oh yeah, the old bait ‘n switch.

Anyhoo, usually once or twice a week our errands we run in the mornings require a stop by a grocery store.  I often bribe offer my kids a special treat if they behave themselves.  And lately their choice has been an apple.

When we’re eating at home and the kids finish their meal and want something special or sweet, I offer them yogurt with honey and/or fruit.  They love it and it’s good for them (especially since we eat homemade yogurt with no artificial colors or sweeteners).

So how did I get such health-conscious children?

I created them.  (Literally.)

Okay, I’m not giving them 100% of the credit.  It’s not like they walk into the store and make a beeline for the fresh fruit section and cry out “This, Mom! I want this as my special treat!”.  Nope, they’re not that brainwashed good.  Yet.

However as we meander the store I might suggest a few things they might like, typically in the fresh fruit section.  And as I speak to them I make it sound very appealing.

“Wow, look at those bright green and red apples!  Don’t they look good?”

“Those bananas sure are yellow.  Would you like a banana as a special treat?”

Or if we walk by the salad bar and see a fruit we don’t want to buy a whole bunch or a whole one of (say pineapple), I’ll offer that as an option.

Now if we pass through the bakery and they see cookies and cakes, do they ask for those?  Of course.  They’re human, not child-bots.  But I usually make a quick comment about that not being a very healthy choice or too expensive.  Or in Maddie’s case “No, Maddie, we’re not buying you a whole pie as your special treat.”  And we move on.

Do they always ask for yogurt after a meal?  No, sometimes they ask for ice cream or cookies.  Especially if they know we have them around.  Do we give them ice cream and cookies?  Occassionally.

So what in the heck is my whole point in all of this?  The point is you can influence your children’s food choices.  Especially if you start at a young age, like I did.  Don’t give in to every request they have.  You are the grown up.  You hold the purse strings.  They can have an apple or they can have nothing.  It’s up to them.

And for those super-picky kids that don’t eat anything healthy?  Continuously offer it to them.  Don’t let them choose an apple or potato chips.  If they’re hungry enough they’ll eat the healthy choice.  And let them see you eating it yourself.  If you don’t eat fruits and vegetables, guess what?  Neither will your kids.   And while I like the idea of getting the kids extra nutrition by “hiding” fruits and veggies in their meals, I also think it does not replace offering them real fruits and veggies at every meal.

Now I’m not saying to be a food-Nazi and only give them food you want them to eat.  If you force it on them without choice they could resist.  Kids need choices and need to feel that they have control over what they do.  But you can limit those choices.  And explain to them how a certain item (i.e. an apple) is healthier than another (i.e. potato chips).  If you let them know good choices like apples help them grow healthy and strong but potato chips don’t, they’ll get it.  Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for.

If you have young children (and heck, even if you have older children) you are laying the foundation of their eating habits for life.  If you give them healthy choices and they see you make healthy choices it will be engrained in them forever.

Did you know it’s possible for the current generations to actually have a shorter lifespan than prior generations?  I know I for one would love to change that trend and for the current generation of young kids to be less obese and have a longer life span than their predecessors.  And as their parents, it begins with us.

Okay, I’m down off my soapbox now.  Thank you for listening.  🙂

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