Eat healthy. As parents, we know that our children need a diet loaded with fresh produce, healthy grains, and other nutrient-rich choices. Our kids, however, would prefer to eat junk food all day. And for those of us raising picky eaters, changing their meals may seem like an impossible chore. However, by using smart strategies and motivation, you can teach your kids to expand their palette. Here’s how.
Start With Yourself
Let’s face it: Most of our kids picked up their unhealthy eating habits from watching us. So when you want to change your kids’ diets, you need to start with your own. Why do you make poor food choices? You might eat when you’re anxious, stressed, or depressed.
The fact is what and how we eat can impact how we cope with stress, depression, anxiety, and other factors that impact our mental health. Stress eating is not uncommon, but it’s not your best choice. This is especially true if you work from home; stress eating can happen when you have easy access to food while you work. Make sure you’re preparing healthy meals you can grab, instead of gravitating toward unhealthy comfort food.
What Foods To Try For Better Mental Health
Instead, buy healthy foods that have a positive impact on your family’s mental health, such as:
- Salmon and other fatty fish are an excellent source of omega-3, EPA, and DHA. These brain-boosting chemicals are great for your health. However, if your children won’t eat fish, flax seeds are also high in omega-3. Mix them up in smoothies for your kids! Learn how omega-3 can fight depression and anxiety and help kids with ADHD from Healthline.
- Bananas are a great, flexible food that most kids enjoy. They are a great source of B9, which can boost your mood, and tryptophan, which helps build serotonin. This is a very important chemical for good mental health. Read more benefits of bananas at Eat This, Not That!
- Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes and you can use them to make kid-friendly fries. Besides being full of healthy nutrients that benefit your body, they are a good source of magnesium, which is an important mineral for combating stress. Read more about the goodness of sweet potatoes at Health.com.
Here are more tips from Mental Health America on what foods and practices to avoid for better mental health.
Tips To Help Picky Eaters
Now that you have some idea of healthy food options, how can you get kids to eat them? After all, you can’t just give them smoothies all day!
Here are some tips to help your kids expand their palettes to eat healthier foods:
- Don’t Force Food On Them
Pushing something at them will only make them draw back. And they may have a sensitivity that you don’t realize, such as to a food texture, which is hard to determine when they are little. Read these tips for the youngest picky eaters at Zero To Three.
- Start Fresh
Negative energy in the house can adversely affect everyone, so take steps to clear the air. Starting from a positive place may give your kids the encouragement they need to branch out.
- Let Them Cook
Get your child involved in planning, buying, and cooking the meal. Not only are you giving them a level of independence and providing a life skill, but also kids are more excited to eat foods they have made themselves. Check out these kid-friendly vegetable recipes from Cooking Light.
- Supermarket Food Sampling
There’s just something so fun about trying the free samples in a grocery store. A word of caution – stick to the healthy samples including fish or sautéed vegetables. Better yet, buy what they are recommending – with the recipe – and watch your child light up as you bring the dish to life together.
- Stick With It
According to Parents.com, kids have to try something 10-15 times before they like it. And they need to see it even more than that. So put out those tasty vegetables, making sure they see you eating and enjoying them. They just might try them!
Need more help? Here is a comprehensive list of reasons kids refuse food and how to handle them from Parenting.com.
Teaching healthy food habits to picky eaters is a challenge most families face. However, your kids can expand their menu when you model good choices and let them get involved in the kitchen.
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