Do you find yourself leaving off a salad or the kale from your kid’s plate because you’re thinking, “They won’t eat it, so why bother?” I am guilty of this, and I have to stop myself. Over time, and after a lot of trial and error, I have learned to normalize healthy eating with my young son. In fact, my son now asks for kale salads!
What if your kids got excited about eating veggies? What if they asked for smoothies packed with highly nutritious food? As a mom of a veggie loving toddler and the owner of a baby food company I frequently get asked: “How can I get my kid to eat their veggies”?
First, there isn’t a magic bullet for getting kids to eat healthy, but there are some practical things you can do to set them up for success as well as encourage their interest in REAL food! For instance, one of the reasons my son now asks for kale salads is that we created excitement around gardening. We don’t even have a garden! We just take him to farms and show him where our food comes from.
"My son now asks for kale salads!"
Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Feels Like an Uphill Battle
Did you know there are 5,500 ads annually that endorse junk food? The sports stars and pop stars our children look up to get paid to glamorize fast food, sodas and candy. In contrast there are only 100 healthy commercials annually! No wonder we face an uphill battle.
When your children are infants, it is the perfect window to introduce simple, healthy, homemade baby food--not pre-packaged goods sitting on an unrefrigerated shelf. Why? Because most shelf-stable foods have been processed so much that almost all of the nutrients have been zapped, they’re gone, the true flavor depleted. Or, they are full of sugary fruit to make up for flavor.
Of course, I know it can be a struggle to make your own baby food. This is why I started my company, Rooted Baby. We offer small batch, low sugar baby food in fun, veggie rich combos that really grow and strengthen your kiddo’s love of REAL food!
It’s Never Too Late to Teach Kids How to Eat Healthy
While a child’s taste buds are developed between the ages of 4-6 months and 2 years old, it’s never too late to teach kids how to love and choose real food.
Here are some facts that greatly motivated me to be purposeful in what I feed my baby and to help other parents who want to move in the same direction. I found The Kids Menu, a Joe Cross documentary filled with helpful information.
- Ages 0 to 5 years old are the most formative years for setting your child’s taste preferences and longer-term eating habits.
- The highest cause of death in the U.S. is FOOD! The food choices we make with processed food and sugar are leading to diseases resulting in heart attacks and diabetes.
- Studies show that when kids work with food it improves self-esteem
- Setting your child up now will help their focus, sleep, behavior and energy which are critical to success as they get older.
- Sugar is highly addictive and a hard habit to break, what if your child didn’t have to go through this struggle?
What You Can Do as A Parent to Build Your Child’s Healthy Eating Habits
It is so important to ensure our children are getting the healthiest start, at any age. So whether your child is still under 5 years old, or they’re almost a teenager, you can still give them the knowledge and resources they need to eat healthy and gain the many physical and mental benefits that comes with it.
Quick and Easy Education
There are a ton of free resources out there, but here are some of my favorites that have worked great for my family.
- Check out The Whole Kids Foundation for some very cool resources on educating children and making real food fun!
- Fun, kid-friendly documentaries like The Kid’s Menu are a wonderful start to helping kids understand why eating healthy is critical.
- Super Sprowtz is a great educational series glamorizing eating veggies and really making them COOL for young kids.
- Take your kids to volunteer at a local farm or community garden to teach them where food comes from and give them a sense of control and ownership over the foods they eat.
Here are some Austin-area farms to try.
- Greengate Farms
- Urban Farms
- Sustainable Food Center Austin
- Johnson’s Backyard Garden
- Boggy Creek lets you wander around the farm
Make it FUN!
Did you know there are actually camps where your kids can get dirty and dig in the dirt all while learning about where their food comes from? There are also many ways to make healthy eating fun at home.
- Farming camps - At Greengate Farms Summer Camp, kids enjoy activities like planting, harvesting, and cooking; caring for livestock (rabbits, chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, horses); presentations from area experts on sustainability; treehouse building; and more.
- Cooking camps - At Patricia’s Table Kid’s Summer Camp, kid chefs will make two or three recipes every week, always one savory and one sweet, daily from scratch. And summer camps at Foodie Kids has options for kids to cook favorites from local restaurants or classic desserts.
- Gardening camps - At Gardenheads Summer Camp, young campers learn all aspects of organic gardening, along with creative arts and yoga for kids.
- Get creative with utensils - Let your child use a “sword” (cocktail skewers with fun shapes on the end) to eat veggies.
- Food art - Get new paint brushes and use low-sugar condiments to let your child paint their baked chicken breast, or they can make designs on their plate with their veggies.
- Grocery store field trip - Take your kid to the store, and let them pick the veggies they want to try.
- Farmer’s market - From fresh, local veggies to fun community experiences like live music and food tastings, your area Farmer’s market can be a fun weekend outing for the whole family.
- Kid chefs - Have them help cook. Do they like pizza? Pick a healthier crust and pile it with veggies.
- Smoothies - Let kids do small batch experiments to try different recipes.
- Kid-friendly cookbooks - Head to the library and find some fun kids cook books.
- Gardens -Start a small herb garden, even if it’s just basil or mint that they can smell.
- Family fun - Eat as a family! Families who eat together are typically healthier according to this Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics study on the Associations Between Early Family Meal Environment Quality and Later Well-Being in School-Age Children.
- Do small swaps - Have healthier options available verse sugary snacks, processed food and soda. Instead have fruit, offer water or non-sugary green juice, nuts, seeds, veggies and dips (hummus, guacamole).
Do you have some favorite ideas that are not on this list? Share them in the comments.
How Rooted Baby Can Help
To learn more about healthy food options for babies through toddlers, visit us at rootedbaby.com! We have jars and pouches of amazing, healthy food to set your little one up for success.
Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for healthy ideas on getting veggie sin toddlers as well – for example, you can add our Sweet Potato + Zucchini + Kale to pasta sauce or our Beet + Apple puree to yogurt!