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Food Smarts: Raising Nutrition Conscious Kids

It’s safe to assume that the most important goal of any parent is to raise healthy kids. To this end, we know that nutrition is one of the most important factors for maintaining good health at any age, which is why parents should be concerned with raising healthy eaters from the very beginning.

What’s a Smart Eater?

For children, being a healthy eater is less about limitation and more about a willingness to try different foods, most of which are various vegetables that aren’t necessarily introduced to children as “kid friendly” foods. Raising kids who have positive attitudes about healthy foods starts with your own habits, and what foods your kids see you put on your plate. Additionally, children learn to be open-minded about trying foods they’ve never seen before from watching your own interaction with new foods, so keep an eye on what your children learn from you.

How Do We Raise Smart Eaters?

There are some ways you can nurture a healthy relationship with food for your child, and the most important step is to stop the notion of “kid friendly foods.” As long as it’s cooked to the appropriate temperature and does not contain any dangerous substances, any food can be a “kid friendly food.” Most parents of picky eaters experience kids who are unwilling to try new foods, especially if these foods are vegetables. Here are some ways you can overcome the common challenges:

1. Don’t force anything. Nobody likes to be forced into eating something, and kids are no exception. If you have decided that it’s time for your child to start eating broccoli, the smart strategy is to start small, and maybe settling for just an introduction the first few times. Start with a raw broccoli, and see if your child likes it or is willing to try it. The next day, try steamed broccoli, and the next day try it sautéed or with some cheese. Each time the broccoli is presented to your child, let it be his/her choice whether to eat it or not. This is going to have a more positive lasting impression than if you were to force your child to eat broccoli from the first introduction.

2. Let your child choose. Making kids active participants in their meals will help nurture a sense of responsibility that will help your child in the future. During meal times, try to prepare two or three different types of vegetables and ask your child to choose the ones they’d like to eat. Then, let your child be in charge of their choice and let them see you choose as many vegetables as possible for your meal as well.

Most importantly, teach your kids healthy eating habits by example, rather than segregating their meals form yours. If a child grows up believing that chicken nuggets and mac & cheese are normal “kid foods” while broccoli and carrots are not, they’re going to carry this prejudice in their future eating habits as well. Vegetables and other nutrition-dense foods can be just as fun and “kid friendly” as fried and sugary foods, but first parents must present a different picture of food and nutrition to their kids.

Do you have a picky eater? What are some other ways you have been able to teach your child to make smart food choices?

Editor’s Note: This article has been reprinted here with permission of Bumrungrad International Hospital.

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