Getting your children to eat healthfully is quite possibly one of the oldest chapters in the parenting dilemma book. Many parents, including myself, relentlessly try to encourage their kids to eat vegetables and sample new foods, only to resort back to the chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese standby.
Research shows that having a healthy, balanced diet improves brain capacity and improves academic performance in school-age children. With that in mind, Ellen Briggs, founder of Family Food Experts, a website dedicated to providing healthier food solutions kids love to eat through the Fuel Your Dreams program, worked with more than 25,000 "Kid Kritics" between the ages of 5 and 13 who have taste-tested hundreds of products. Here, Briggs offers five successful nutrition tips for families:
Teach your kids about the connection between what they eat and drink and what happens inside their bodies. "Once they learn that 100 billion neurons in their brain send thousands of messages so they can run fast, they are totally motivated to eat avocados and sweet potatoes so they can be the best they can be," said Briggs. "Kids will eat healthy foods that taste good."
Don’t make broccoli a 4-letter word. Get creative with fruits and vegetables. "Your kids will love to experiment and add it to their menu," she said.
Be transparent with your kids — they’re too smart, said Briggs. "Rather than hiding, puréeing and masking vegetables, try preparing and presenting them properly. Kids will embrace vegetables and create healthy, lifelong habits."
Become what you eat and drink. "Kids need a reason to eat healthy food beyond 'your mom said so,' she said. "So, for example, if a kid wants to be an NFL football player (a popular choice among boys) or a veterinarian (the number one pick among girls surveyed), educate them on what specific foods can 'fuel their body for success.'"
Be upfront. "Kids are critical thinkers," said Briggs. "They love to ask and understand the 'why,' they love to vote (power) and they appreciate being heard. Further, kids are egocentric, focused primarily on their own desires. Once kids understand why nutrition fuels success, they will crave it."