Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

There is a reason that we are told to eat lots of fruits and vegetables—they are insanely good for us. These foods are packed with the most important nutrients for our health and people who eat a diet rich in plant foods tend to be healthier in every respect. You obviously care about your child’s well-being and you want to feed him a nutritious diet; but he may have other plans. It can be a hard battle for many reasons. Fruits and vegetables may be boring and not as tasty; children do not understand the importance of being healthy and eating a nutritionally balanced meal is really not a top priority when it comes to sitting down at the table to eat. If you are struggling to get your child to eat more natural foods, here are some tips that may help.

Creative Plate Design
When it comes to getting your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, one potentially successful strategy may be as simple as making the plate look pretty. A study conducted by researchers from Cornell University and London Metropolitan University wanted to see how food arrangement affected children’s desire to eat what was on the plate. Compared to data gathered from adults, it turns out their preferences vary greatly. Researchers asked a group of children aged 5 to 12 to look at 48 different plates of food and indicate which ones they liked best. The plates differed in various respects, such as number of different colors, number of unique food items, where the main component of the meal was placed and whether or not the food was arranged into a picture.

Of all the different combinations, the most favored was a plate arranged into a picture that contained 7 different types of foods in 6 different colors (both were the highest number offered) where the main component of the meal was placed at the bottom. Many studies looking at the effect of a large variety of foods on eating habits has found both children and adults tend to eat greater amounts when there are more colors and options; while these studies tended to look at unhealthier items like ice cream and candy, it is likely children would do the same thing with healthy foods as well.

You May Need to Alter Your Approach
As far as getting kids to eat healthier foods, parenting tactics tend to fall into four broad categories. We have the firm approach that might involve withholding dessert unless the child eats his vegetables or completely eliminating junk food from the house. The practical approach utilizes tactics like altering the food in some way to make it more attractive to the child or sneaking fruits and vegetables into other foods they enjoy. The third category consists of teaching moments like asking your child to try the food without having to finish it if she does not want to or making sure your child sees you enjoying fruits and vegetables. Lastly, there was the ‘’increased access and availability’’ approach, which is pretty self-explanatory—parents made sure to always keep fruits and vegetables around and made it easy for their children to access and consume them.

A study that surveyed over 700 parents and children from Texas and Alabama sought to discover the success rates of these different tactics on getting children to eat more fruits and vegetables. No matter how the parents went about it, the children in all groups, on average, failed to get the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. But, it seems that certain approaches were more successful than the others. The ‘’teaching moments’’ and ‘’increased access and availability’’ methods seem to work much better than the practical and firm approaches. The former are proactive and aim to get children to naturally adopt preferences for healthier foods while the others are reactive in that they are attempting to fight against the child’s reluctance to eat these types of foods.Getting children to eat foods that are good for them can be difficult and frustrating. But, it seems that there are some approaches that may help you get the results you want, at least to some degree. It may just take some patience and persistence.

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