There are many strategies to develop healthy eating habits for your children at a young age. Give your kids vegetables before you give them fruits. Implement textures early. For breastfeeding mothers, eat a wide variety of foods so that you will pass them along to your child. This is sound advice, and if you are lucky following those tips will keep your child on a path to good health as they learn to decide which foods are good for them and which ones aren't.
While we can't change the foods children like or dislike, we can get creative and find ways to get them to eat them.
Make it a game. Find ways to "gamify" dinner. Whether it's through a reward for trying new foods or a game to see who can eat the most pieces of broccoli, kids will try anything if you make it fun.
Disguise it. My son hates cauliflower, but I've found clever ways to integrate it into his diet without him even realizing it's there. Mashed cauliflower (half and half cauliflower and potatoes), small pieces cut up into casseroles and even cauliflower spread (boil and mash to a paste) are clever ways that we've found to integrate a food we love into our picky toddler's diet.
Educate them. When my son asked me about health, I took that as an opportunity to explain why we ate vegetables with every meal. I explained to him that some foods are very good for the body and should be eaten every day, and some foods are not so good for the body and should be eaten once in a while. No matter how good they taste, it doesn't change the fact that they do not provide much nourishment for your body. This discussion turned in to a marathon watching session of the PBS show, "Hey Kids, Let's Cook!" The show features children as they learn not only a bit about cooking, but also why the foods they are cooking are "good" or "bad."
Learn about the alternatives. French fries are a longtime child favorite. However, most french fries are also low in nutrition for you as they're loaded with salt and saturated fat from the oil they're cooked in. Sweet potato fries are a great alternative as they are generally cooked in the oven using a bit of olive oil and a minuscule pinch of salt. In fact, I've learned that it's not necessarily the fries kids enjoy, it's the act of dipping them in something. Apples and carrots make great alternatives that kids can dip, and still enjoy.
Childhood is supposed to be fun, so I'm not telling you to pass up the drugstore coupon code for your favorite ice cream in exchange for a healthy alternative. Nobody has to eat healthy 100-percent of the time, and it's okay to give your kids treats on occasion. Everything is okay in moderation; the key is teaching them what is healthy and what isn't and getting them to make healthy choices more often than unhealthy ones.
In fact, you'll eventually reap the rewards of your effort. Just recently, we're standing in line waiting to ask the help desk attendant about the parking prices near JFK airport, when my son spotted apple dippers at the kiosk next to us. Rather than asking for the candy (also being offered at the kiosk) he right away asked for the healthier choice. It was a proud moment.
Vegetables are a way of life, and there are plenty of ways to encourage children to enjoy them. Find ways to make veggies fun, and teach your kids about their benefits in order to implant the wisdom they need to make good food decisions