With kids on summer break, it may be even harder to get them to eat, much less snack on, healthy foods. Through the years, I have tried and I have stumbled on some tricks that have worked to get my two children to chew the good stuff. Read on to see if some of these ideas will work with your family, too.
Put It Out Period:
This seems so obvious, but it works. Put out the good stuff. When they want a snack, put out a veggie tray with ranch dressing. Even though kids sneer at eating their vegetables, I’ve never had a kid not reach into a colorful veggie tray. I buy my ready-made veggie tray at Safeway, so I always have one on hand for quick snacks and for their veggie side dish with dinner.
If they crave salt, skip the chips and always have popcorn ready to go. Popcorn is actually a healthy, whole grain snack!
If sweet is what they crave, keep cut-up frozen grapes on hand. This one never fails, but make sure the grapes are cut in half before freezing, so they are not a choking hazard.
Or put out a plate of sliced watermelon or cantaloupe. The trick is to buy the sweet fruits that are in season, display it nicely and then not say a word. Just put it out. You will be amazed how quickly they gravitate to it and start snacking on the good stuff, sometimes not even paying attention to what they are chewing!
The Friend Factor:
My kids are in the sleepover stage right now, so one of the first things I ask our young guests, when they arrive, is what they like to eat. If they tell me sugary stuff or fries, then I dig deeper and ask them what favorite fruits they enjoy. My daughter has a friend who adores blueberries, so now when she stays over, I put out a plate of berries that include blueberries for her and strawberries for my child. A much better choice than candy!
Yet another time, when we had a little pal over, we decided to go out to eat, so I asked my daughter’s friend which restaurants she likes, just to see what she came up. When she said that she enjoys Pei Wei, I jumped on that idea and off we went. Once there, my daughter tried edamame for the first time because her friend suggested that she taste it and now she snacks on that healthy food regularly. I was thrilled to find a healthy new option that my child will eat because she observed her friend eating it.
And my son refused to try salmon until he enjoyed it a buddy’s house. So, it is good to know not only who your kids hang out with, but what their friends eat, too. If their tastes include healthy foods, go with it, have it on hand and let peer pressure work in your favor…and flavor!
Cool Tools for Tastes:
Keep some kid-friendly cool kitchen tools on hand and watch them make better choices. I have an apple slicer that slices apples and pears perfectly, so my kids are eating more fruit. We also keep a plastic blender on hand that my daughter uses to make banana smoothies in, so that encourages her to eat bananas for potassium and milk for calcium.
My daughter also loves hard-boiled eggs, which is a good protein, so she enjoys using an egg slicer to create wedges, round or oval slices.
And the orange hand-held juicer is fun for my kids to make freshly-squeezed orange juice, without any added sugars.
For the most part, I only keep water and milk on hand, just to avoid the temptation my kids feel when they see a sugary soda. I did find a juice box that I like. Honest Kids juice boxes are USDA organic with no high fructose corn syrup and a lot less sugar. For example, the Honest Kids lemonade is only 10 grams of sugar versus the 30 grams I read on the can of a different brand of lemonade! Quite a difference!
I do let my kids have hot cocoa, minus the whipped cream and marshmallows, but I buy Ovaltine, which is a much better choice. A glass of Rich Chocolate Ovaltine with milk provides 20% or more of the daily vitamins A, C, B6 and B12 and 25 percent or more of the daily calcium, zinc and magnesium that kids need. They like it, too. And my two can mix themselves a chocolate milk that satisfies their sweet tooth and is nutritious to boot. A win win!
I have successfully snuck in several healthier ingredients in my dinners. They never even noticed when I switched to whole grain spaghetti or brown rice, as long as the rice is the Trader Joe’s brand. They have called me out on other brands! Also, Sara Lee has a 100% whole wheat bread that is light and fluffy, so they will eat that bread, too.
When going out to eat, talk to your kids about other choices instead of the children’s menu, which usually, only offers unhealthy fare like chicken fingers, fries and pizza. A lot of restaurants are now offering healthier options in addition to the standard fried and fatty foods. But beyond that, my kids are I discuss healthy menu choices when we dine out.
So, a lot of times, my daughter will order a chicken Caesar salad and my son may go for a dish with a side of broccoli, instead of fries. Now mind you, not always! But if he has a hockey game that day, then he has a reason to make better choices, so we talk about that and it becomes top of mind.
The same thing goes if my daughter is in the middle of several theater performances. She realizes that drinking lot of water is a better choice than a sugary soda and that she should fill up on foods that won’t leave her feeling sluggish, come show-time.
So the key here is to discuss healthy menu options when eating out. And believe me, we have our special occasions when I cringe, but let them order, a sugary cola! Or a big piece of cheesecake when dining at The Cheesecake Factory….yum!
Tried and True:
Here is a list of snacks and treats that my kids will eat, that I think, are better choices than your typical sugary and salty fare:
*Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Carmel Wedges instead of a candy bar.
*Trader Joe’s Organic Olive Oil Popcorn instead of buttery popcorn.
*Good Health Natural Foods Veggie Stix instead of potato chips.
*Frozen grapes (cut up) instead of gummy bears.
*Homemade banana strawberry smoothie instead of ice cream shake – my daughter simply uses bananas, strawberries, skim milk and three ice cubes in the blender.
*Black beans and cheese in a whole grain tortilla instead of refried beans in white tortilla.
*Homemade all natural grape juice frozen popsicles instead of store-bought pops that come with lots of added sugar and other artificial ingredients.
We recently bought the Zoku Quick Pop Maker at Sur La Table for $49.95 that makes all sorts of frozen treats in just under 10 minutes or less. Very entertaining and we control what goes in the frozen pops. We have not mastered the Zoku yet and the price is a bit high, but we sure have had fun creating fun treats together.
What healthier food options have worked in your household? Share here in the comments section.