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 By: Annie Ketcher 

One of my goals as a parent is that my children grow up eating a variety of healthy foods. With all the packaged convenience foods out there, this isn’t an easy task. It is something I must think about and work at every day. I’m hoping the habits established when they are young, I have a 5-year-old daughter and 1-year old son, will help them to have a positive relationship with food throughout their lifetime. Here are a few guidelines I try to follow:

Serve a vegetable at every meal. I would love to say these are always fresh, seasonal vegetables, however, my go to is usually bags of frozen vegetable mixes. It is quick, easy, inexpensive and I always have them in my freezer. I just throw them in the microwave and then add a little parmesan cheese and pepper.

Limit the amount of unhealthy foods in the cupboard. There aren’t a lot of snack foods in our house. When my daughter says she’s hungry in between meals, her options are usually fruit, cheese and crackers or cereal.

Dump the junk. After special occasions and holidays that provide a lot of sweets (Easter, Valentines, parades, etc.), I will keep the candy in a bag on top of the refrigerator for about a week. After that, it’s usually forgotten and I’m able to throw it out.

Try at least one bite. When I prepare a new meal that my daughter is a little unsure of, I ask that she at least tries it. If she doesn’t like it, I won’t make her eat it.

Include the kids in the meal prep process. Sometimes this can be a fun activity for us both, other times it can add a lot of extra work.  But when my daughter says she wants to help, I try and accommodate her request. I’ve noticed that she is more willing to try the new foods or eat the vegetables if she is the one helping to prepare them.

Allow them to get creative. My daughter loves to create recipes of her own. I try and let her enjoy this activity without limitations as much as possible. Below is a picture of her with the yogurt with raisins and jelly she prepared all by herself.

Above all, I think the most powerful thing that any parent can do is lead by example. I think this quote from James A. Baldwin sums it up well: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”