I didn’t grow up knowing how to cook real food. I grew up in the land of casseroles, tv dinners and fast food. It was the 80s and 90s and people had moved away from elaborate home cooked meals to quick fixes. Life was just too busy for all of that stuff.
Fast forward 30 years and now I’m a mom. I’ve actually been a mom for awhile-I have teenage boys. Teenagers can eat a lot. Constantly.
You might be preparing a meal when they come home from school (or practice or hanging out with friends or wherever they have been). They come in and grab a snack, while asking you what’s for dinner. A few minutes later, you serve dinner. They eat what’s on their plate and then get seconds. About an hour later, they are asking what there is to eat. They find a snack or another helping of dinner. Before bed, you find them rummaging in the pantry or refrigerator looking for more food.
How do you keep these kids full? Even worse, how do you keep them full with real food?
Today, I want to talk about feeding kids on a real food diet.
When I say diet, I don’t mean I am restricting calories or eliminating a food group. That is the “diet” we are used to. My teenagers are growing and active boys. They don’t need restriction, they need health.
But let’s face it, kids (teenagers in particular), don’t always like what is healthy for them. They want to eat Hot Cheetos (I can’t stand the smell of these!) and soda, not fruits and vegetables.
So how do we get them to eat more of what is good for them?
7 Ways to Keep Your Kids Happy Eating Real Food
- Start at an early age- The earlier you start your kids eating real food, the easier it will be to continue it. I know of a family where the kids had never had any sugar until age 3. That amazes me, but it just goes to show that they don’t miss what they haven’t had.
- Keep the pantry stocked- Kids (especially teenagers) are going to go looking for food. If your pantry is stocked with good food, they will have more opportunity to make a healthy choice.
- Let them help make the meal- Kids love to help in the kitchen. If they have a voice in what is being prepared or a hand in the preparation, they are more likely to eat the meal before them.
- Have them help in the garden- Gardening is very important part of kids learning where their food comes from. They are also more likely to try new things if they helped grow it themselves.
- Make healthy alternatives to junk food- Making a healthier version of their favorite treat may make them wary at first, but if you get it right they won’t even miss the unhealthy version.
- Don’t keep junk in the house- Your kids will get the opportunity to eat junk food at school or outside of the home. But, if you can keep the junk out of your home, they will get a healthy balance of both.
- 80/20 rule- This rule means you eat 80% healthy food and 20% of the rest. While it is hard to follow these percentages exactly, just know that you can’t be perfect all of the time. Don’t beat yourself up or get upset if your child comes home from grandma’s house with a sweet treat.
We all know that we should be feeding healthy, whole foods to our family. But actually getting them to eat it willingly may be a battle. Hopefully these tips will allow you to have less of a fight at meal time with your kids. You are doing them a great service by teaching them while they are young what is healthy for them. The world isn’t going to teach them healthy habits. It is our job to teach them these things in the home. It is definitely worth the effort for your kids’ health and well being!
Do you have any tips or tricks to share about getting kids to eat (and like) real food? Please leave a comment below. Thanks!