New Year, New Strategies: Eating Clean for Kids
January is the season for fresh starts, including in the kitchen. This is the best time of year to wipe the slate clean, right the ship and get back to healthier eating habits. It can be tough to do this immediately after the holiday season, but sometimes all it takes is a little willpower and some simple resolutions tacked to your fridge. Here are some tips to help get you and your family’s New year off to a clean eating start:
Detox your Fridge: Clear out all of the bad stuff and fill your fridge with the good stuff. Lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and water should always be within your reach. Being able to easily access the healthy foods is a great way to keep your focus.
Load up on veggies: This is a big one, chances are your children aren’t getting enough vegetables. Here are some kid-tested strategies for getting your family on track for the New Year.
Set a Healthy Table—and a Good Example: Serve the same meal to everyone in the family – no more short order cook. When there are no other choices, and kids see Mom and Dad enjoying what’s on offer, they are more likely to expand their favorites.
Make Good Food Fun: Kids love colorful foods and, at an age where they’re just learning the names of colors, it can be fun to print out a rainbow and let them put a star on the corresponding color each time they eat a vegetable that matches. Research shows that giving fun names to foods (such as “dinosaur trees” for broccoli or “x-ray vision carrots”) encourages kids to eat more of them, too. Another strategy is to put out plates of carrot sticks, peppers and other cut vegetables along with dips like salsa, hummus or ranch dressing while you’re preparing dinner. You’ll be catching your children at their hungriest this way, and avoiding that pre-dinner whining period where you used to say, “No, you can’t have a snack; it’s too close to dinner.” One study showed kids ate 80% more raw broccoli with a dip!
A Little Nudge: Some kids need a little nudge when confronted with new foods. Many families use the “one-bite” rule successfully: each person must try at least one bite of every food on the plate, each time it’s served. Children may need as many as 12-15 tries before they decide they like a food, and each bite gets them closer to that tipping point.Remember, you’re the grown-up here, and you’re in charge. Kids all around the world eat vegetables, and your kids will too, with strategies like these.
Hydration:We all know we need to drink more water, but the dry air of January can be very dehydrating so focus on drinking extra water throughout the day and evening. Same goes for your kiddos! To change it up a little and get them interested in drinking water, infuse it with fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. Some sliced cucumbers and lemon make water fun and delicious. Or try kombucha mixed with a little sparkling water, yum!
Find Inspiration: Get out of the rut you were stuck in last year, cooking the same foods again and again. Keep your family interested and excited about dinner by experimenting with different foods and recipes! Search through healthy recipes on Pinterest, browse through blog websites that focus on clean eating recipes and keep a stack of them where they are easily accessible when you need some inspiration.
Cook and eat at home: Days get long and difficult in January, but stay home and cook at home to keep you on track with your clean eating goals!
Get the kids involved too! Kids who help cook food are more likely to try new foods. Invite each child to pick an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable when you go shopping. Invite children to stir the sauce, toss the salad, or decorate their own pita pizza with a veggie face.
Also, have everyone gather around the table for a meal together. Studies have shown that kids who eat dinner with their parents experience less stress and have a better relationship with them. This daily mealtime ritual allows us to find out what’s going on with each other and reduces the likeliness of risky behavior on the road of childhood and adolescence.