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Food Plays a Big Role in Kid's Lives
Kids love to eat, especially when it comes to favorites like macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, and of course French fries. Even school lunches tend to be on the unhealthy side with foods full of saturated fats and few vegetable or fruit options in sight. So when our lives are full of bad food choices, it is important to teach our kids the healthy foods to eat so they can grow up with a healthy heart, a fit outlook on life, and a positive attitude when it comes to healthy food. For more information on the role of food in children's lives, read "Best Brain Foods for Kids."
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Show the Kids a Whole New World of Fruits and Vegetables
You can really put an emphasis on how fun vegetables are to eat using a little creativity. Consider cutting apples to look like little surfboards, or instead of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich replace the jelly with bananas, fresh blueberries, or another fruit like an apricot. If your children do not like salad, try ensuring that they still get some of the nutritional value of one by using a mandolin to cut up cucumbers and carrots so they look like spaghetti, and then tossing them with traditional noodles and pasta sauce.
Another fun idea is to have a tasting party with kids from around the neighborhood. Serve fun dishes like grilled pineapple on a stick, chips and mango salsa, and even green bean casserole with a healthy twist. They will have a good time and probably even try to show off their eating skills to their friends in the process of learning to like new, healthy foods.
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Get the Kids Involved
When it is time to prepare dinner, get the kids involved. Chances are, if they’re part of fixing a meal, they will want to at least try it. This is also an excellent opportunity to teach them valuable cooking skills. Tossing the salad, mixing dressings, grating cheese, setting the table, and serving the food are all good options.
In addition, let them take part in learning how to shop for healthy food every time you go to the grocery store. Make them little detectives and teach them how to look at labels for ingredients on the “do not buy” list like high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Let them pick out apples, and size up which vegetables look best to buy for dinner. This method can go a long way in building confidence and health consciousness for a lifetime.
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Have Fun with Finger Foods
Instead of overwhelming kids with vegetables to try, have some fun and pique their interest in something new at the same time. For example, cut up fresh red and green bell peppers into strips so they resemble the size and shape of French fries. Then serve them with barbeque sauce or ranch dressing, just like chicken nuggets or French fries.
Another option is to make an edible vegetable garden. On a dinner plate, create some grass by using shredded lettuce. Arrange chopped broccoli throughout the plate so the heads stick up and look like little trees. "Plant” tomatoes, olives, corn, and other fun stuff throughout the garden together. If you cut everything small, the kids can have a good time putting the garden together while you prepare the rest of dinner, and then the family can have a good time eating it together.
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Keeping it Real
There are quite a few approaches to teaching kids the healthy foods to eat, but it is a good idea to be honest and straight forward when doing so. Being able to sneak vegetables into their meal doesn’t teach kids the importance of why they need to be eaten for a lifetime.
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Image from Flickr/Public Domain