How Can I Get Kids to Eat Real Food? Tip #5

If you’re reading my blog, you probably want to improve your diet. But for many, getting the kids on board is the biggest stumbling block. Parents like the idea but want to know, “how can I get my kids to eat healthy food?” This is the first in a series of posts that will help you put theory into practice, and get the whole family happily eating real food.
Tip #5 is:  Cook with your kids.

I hate the term “quality time”. I mean, I like the idea of spending time in which you’re focused on your child, but I don’t like having to label it. Ideally, it should happen naturally in the course of a day.
One unforced way to find time to do something with your child is by cooking together. This is a win-win-win-win and (one more win) situation.
1. It’s a great way to spend time with your child.
Nuff said.
2. It’s a way for him or her to learn the fundamentals of cooking.
It’s easy to find a suitable task that even a preschooler can do: pouring things into a bowl, fetching 3 tomatoes from the fridge, stirring. Sure it’ll take a bit longer to prepare dinner, but in the big picture, it’s totally worth it because you are creating an independent child who is a good eater. That will save you time in the long run.
3. Having your child prepare food that is enjoyed by the family is a fabulous self-esteem builder.
Pick up a book about building self esteem in kids and you’ll see that it has a lot to do with having them undertake and accomplish tasks.
I remember when my daughter was about seven and had a friend of the same age visiting together with his mom. Those were the days when I used to buy frozen concentrate juice. My daughter was thirsty so she went to the fridge to get herself some juice. When she saw we were out, she climbed on a chair, got frozen concentrate out of the freezer, and made a pitcherful. My friend just stared in awe and said, “we don’t even let Mark open the fridge alone”. 
4. You child is much more likely to eat a nutritious dish made of real food ingredients if he or she was the chef.
Ever read articles on affecting change in the workplace? Compare A) management turning up one day and informing the workers of a change vs. B) management presenting a problem to the staff and having them discuss and decide together on a solution. In which case do you think the staff was more willing to accept change?
Well, it’s a similar situation in the family. Management (that would be you) could suddenly put an unfamiliar soup on the table and expect staff (that’s your kid) to eat it, or management and staff can make the soup together. What do you think it likely to go over better?
And hey, cooking with kids can be fun.
My advice, start involving your kids when they’re young, like I did.  

Kids in the kitchen: My son helping me make homemade yogurt.
Have you already read my other tips on how to get kids to eat?


Sue said...

Heavy sigh... of both relief and frustration. I'm Kosher, gluten-free, as free of soy, dairy, and sweeteners as possible (I cheat a little bit...) I have tested sensitive to onions, celery, pear, romaine, hops, and a few chemicals. Food is definitely an *ISSUE* for me. As you can imagine, I have to cook a lot... and I hate cooking :-(. I couldn't deal with shopping or cooking with the kids when they were young (I found it overwhelming...), so now I have two kids (12 and 9) who don't help very much.

I've always been Kosher, so that's not an issue, but the other changes have come as a result of MY health issues. And I feel SOOO much better now!!! It's hard for me to watch my kids eat what they eat (my son is VERY picky, which only makes it worse....) I know it's bad for them but I don't want to make food a fight, so I haven't pushed too hard. I'm hoping that seeing what I've done and how I eat now will influence them (and I say things like "I don't eat that anymore because...")

I wish I could go back and do things differently, but I did what I did then because of how *I* felt, which was too sick to deal with it. And going through what I went through is the only way I would have ended up where I am, so I know it's a journey.

I get so frustrated by how much time I spend dealing with food... between what I *can't* eat and what they *won't* eat it feels like my days revolve around food.

Glad to have found a blog that deals with these issues. It makes me feel better about the struggles I'm having....

Ruth Almon said...

Hi Sue,
I think it does get easier. With my own changes, it took quite a while to figure out what exactly to cook, but once I figured it out, at least I didn't have to think about it anymore. I mean, there's the shopping/cooking aspect, but there is also the business of rethinking everything and that can certainly be tiring.

I think picky kids do come around, but it takes months and years, not days and weeks for them to change.

VivJM said...

I loved this post! I enjoy having my kids help out in the kitchen, and they are definitely more willing to eat different foods if they have helped prepare them. Hopefully it will be a payoff in the long run too, when I can sit around with my feet up while they prepare lovely real food meals :-)

Ruth Almon said...

I have been served wonderful food by my kids. There IS a great payoff!

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