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October 29, 2014

Kids Nutrition: How to Get Your Kids Excited About Eating Healthy

Eating right around this time of year can be a challenge. Between the delicious treats from Halloween and the upcoming Thanksgiving and holiday feasts, it’s not hard to completely forget about a well-balanced diet.

It’s even more difficult if you’re a kid. Sugary snacks and other high-calorie foods can be easily accessible and oh so satisfying. When you’re faced with a pillowcase filled with candy, it’s hard to know when to say no, or to understand the importance of making good food choices.

That’s why now is the perfect time of the year to get your kids excited about making healthy choices. After all, the occasional candy bar or comfort food isn’t too bad when you’re eating healthy the majority of the time.

When it comes to kids nutrition, follow these tips:

Inspire them
Getting your children to eat healthy begins with you, the parent. It’s easy to forget, but remember, we are our children’s primary role models. Whatever is important to us, is important to them.

You need to have the same commitment to good nutrition as you’re trying to impart onto your children. If you do, that will go a long way towards motivating them to be just like mom and dad.

If you don’t, now’s the perfect time to start. Making it a point to eat healthy is not easy, especially if it’s something you’ve struggled to make a habit of. But going through the rigors of changing your lifestyle is easier when your entire family is doing it with you. If mom and dad can do it, so can they.

Empower them
It can be tough being a kid. Think about it from their perspective—always being told what to do, where to go and what to eat. When it comes to kids, empowering them to make decisions can go a long way.

Fruits and vegetables have a way of tasting a lot better if you let them make the decisions on which ones to have with meals. Somehow, a plate of carrots can taste a lot better if they decided to eat them instead of, say, broccoli. Letting them choose between healthy after-school snack options can also help them forget about the less healthy, more tempting options.

Providing your kids with a menu of healthy food options and empowering them to make their own decisions lessens the potential conflict and helps program them to choose the good foods over the bad ones when given the ability to make the decision for themselves.

Involve them
As adults, we certainly appreciate the satisfaction that goes into enjoying the fruits of your labors. Food that you make yourself just seems more satisfying.

Kids are the same way. It’s a lot easier to turn your nose up at the meal that you had no hand in preparing, compared to the one that you helped mom and dad create.

Let your kids become part of the shopping and food preparation process. Use this opportunity to teach them about the importance of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and a balanced diet. You can also use resources like ChooseMyPlate.gov and LetsMove.gov to brush up on your nutritional IQ and to learn more ways to help your kids eat healthy.

Just like empowering them to make decisions, involving them in the preparation of meals makes them more connected to what they’re eating. If you want to take that a step further, you can even try creating your own vegetable, fruit or herb garden together as a family.

Incentivize them
Think like an economist. If you’re trying to change your kids’ behavior, sometimes it takes a little enticement to get them going.

If you have a little one that’s having an especially difficult time giving up some less-than-nutritious foods, think about a healthy eating exchange. In exchange for eating a certain number of fruits and vegetables, allow your kids to occasionally partake in a not-so-nutritious meal. Not only does this give them a goal to work towards, but chances are you’re also getting them to enjoy healthy food options that they otherwise wouldn’t have.

Incentives work by rewarding good behavior, and they’re a great way to start or sustain a commitment to eating healthy. Healthy eating incentives also work wonders around Halloween. Help your kids get a few servings of fruits and vegetables in exchange for eating daily allotments of their Halloween candy.

How do you get your kids excited about eating healthy? Share your tips in the comments!

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