Do your kids get enough nutrients in their diet? If they’re like most kids, the answer is probably no. You want your children to eat more vegetables and less processed junk, but that’s easier said than done. Getting the average kid to chow down on a serving of broccoli is a chore.
Food manufacturers have built an entire industry around our kids’ penchant for sugary cereal and fast food. However, a diet of processed foods can lead to a host of problems, including hindered brain development and even behavioral issues. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found links between poor diet and the development of depression in kids and teens.
So, how can you encourage your kids to eat healthier foods? One way is through presentation. A mound of plain old veggies is unappealing, whether you’re 10 years old or 40. The solution is to think of vegetables as an ingredient rather than as a stand-alone dish. Take lasagna, for instance. You can easily modify this beloved Italian dish. Instead of using lasagna noodles, slice zucchini into thin, noodle-like strips and layer them as you would typical pasta. The same can be done for other pasta dishes. Zucchini noodles made with a spiralizer — also known as “zoodles” — make a mean substitute for spaghetti. Pair them with your favorite marinara sauce or toss them in a slightly less decadent, but still delicious, Alfredo.
Vegetables can also be incorporated into other foods your children already know and love. Did you know you can make brownies with avocado and black beans? Slipping in a few healthier ingredients here and there can deliver the nutrients your kids need to power through a busy school week.
If you want to foster long-lasting healthy eating habits, the best thing you can do is offer your child some agency. For example, saying to your child, “You can have the cauliflower or the broccoli. It’s up to you!” empowers them to make their own decision based on their preferences. Psychologists and social scientists, including the famed Dr. Maria Montessori, argue that when kids feel in charge of a decision, they are more likely to embrace the ability to choose, even if it’s between two kinds of vegetables.
Ultimately, as a parent, you are in control of your child’s diet. Help them explore new foods and foster a positive culinary environment. Your kids will develop a taste for healthy eating in no time!