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Healthy Balance

Get Your Kids to Eat Better: 16 Tips to Try, Day Two

Today we’ll hear the rest of the tips from registered dietitian Angie Hasemann at the UVA Children’s Fitness Clinic and find out how I fared putting a tip or two to the test.

Healthy food for kids doesn't have to be boring. These nachos form a smiley face.
Healthy food for kids doesn’t have to be boring. These nachos form a smiley face.

Food for Thought

Teach your children about food so that they can serve as experts, too. Get them involved in the education – have them create visual aids to hang in the kitchen.

9. Compare foods: The darker the color of a fruit or vegetable, the healthier it is. Hasemann says, “Quiz your child – is iceberg or romaine lettuce healthier? And why would those sweet potato fries be a better choice than the ones you see at McDonalds?”

10. Learn where food comes from. Visiting local farms is a fun, interactive way to understand and enjoy food production.

11. Classify: Teach food groups as a way to help kids understand what is required for the body to function.

12. Use your hands: For each meal, kids need as much protein as one palm, as much whole grain as the other palm, and as many fruits and vegetables as would cover all ten fingers. “Teaching your kids to control their own portion sizes goes a long way to help them learn to manage their own food intake,” Hasemann says. “Comparing hands is also a great way to show how a parent should be eating more than young kids and to explain differences in portion sizes for siblings.”

Get your kids to eat good food with colorful arrangements.
Children should eat proper portion sizes, as shown here.

Some other tips to consider:

13. Only put a little bit of the new or challenging food on the child’s plate to reduce the intimidation factor and set them up for success.

14. Always serve at least one item your child likes.

15. Try dips to help kids eat vegetables, or cut them into fun shapes.

16. Serve the food in a favorite bowl.

The Table Test

After visiting the Children’s Fitness Clinic, it was time to go home and see if I could use any of Hasemann’s tips to actually get my kids to eat a vegetable.

On the menu that night: Edamame beans.

I personally love these. My kids, however, saw green and refused to even try one. I’d only put a few on each plate; I offered a dip – nothing doing. So I tried to make a game of it.

“Watch this!” I said; “Think I can do it?” And I scooped a few beans into my hand, opened my mouth and tossed one up in the air and – thank goodness – caught it in my mouth.

They were totally rapt.

“I bet you guys can’t do that,” I teased.

My daughter couldn’t resist, and immediately began popping them into her mouth. Score! The only problem was, she wasn’t eating them so much as storing them in her mouth. Her cheeks started puffing out, and I had to get her to stop before she choked.

My son was more of a mess. Somehow he lost the idea that the beans were supposed to land in one’s mouth and instead began shooting them all around the kitchen.

So, mixed results, with information to help me be more effective next time. The most important thing is to try again – and every bean counts.

Do you have tips for getting your kids to eat healthy food? Share them with us below.

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