We as adults know the advantages and stumbling blocks there are to adopt a healthy diet.  But, there are just as many, if not more, reasons to get kids to incorporate good food choices in their daily living.   

First of all, ensuring that kids are getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals every day is so important.  It can be more necessary for a child than an adult because they still need to develop and grow properly. It may be easier for adults to take daily vitamins and supplements, but not so much so for kids.  Therefore, there’s a definite need (plus it can make it easier) to learn healthy eating habits that they will carry for life. Understanding the different choices they have may help a child, who is likely more motivated than an adult, succeed.

Parents may believe that like themselves, planning meals, buying groceries and preparing them in a healthy way will take too much time out of a busy schedule to implement.  Not to mention the fact that many kids are picky, or at least not given the opportunity to try more and different foods.

If you think about it, though, kids are far more adaptable than adults and can often respond to encouragement much more positively.  We know that as children get older, they want more choices (not just food) offered to them.  Learning about and being allowed to make more healthy decisions are likely to be more welcome, not to mention fun, for a kid.

So, let’s first take a look at what kinds of foods can get your child on good and healthy start.  

You may be surprised to learn that in a majority of cases, all it takes are a few changes to make favorite foods far more healthful.  For example:

French fries 

Simply skip the frying part and try baking instead.  A short time in the oven and a little bit of salt ( a little bit!) can improve this favorite food and actually cut down on the time and mess involved for mom and dad.

Fried chicken

Same thing, different food!  Baked or grilled chicken is a lot easier to prepare and clean up, and of course, a far healthier option. Another benefit is the different options for seasonings.  Sea salt and pepper, lemon pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper can change it up.  Also, why not learn to make a homemade BBQ sauce that cuts back on sugar and can be far more flavorful and cost saving.  

Ice cream  

We know there are the famous “31” flavors of ice cream, but if you think about it, you can make those and maybe more, using frozen yogurt, sorbets, and sherbets.  Of course, there are the flavors they already come in, but you can take advantage of those that are vanilla or plain, and add fresh fruits that are fun for kids to choose.  They can actually create their own flavor combinations.

Potato chips

Although you certainly can do your baking like the fries and chicken, these days there are plenty of baked chip options in store.  Again, here’s another chance to allow your child to make their own choice.  And why not let them build combinations there, too?  Buying a few different bags and letting kids put together sandwich bags of different combos can be a lot of fun.

Donuts and breakfast pastries

This is a no-brainer as far as cost saving.  A dozen donuts at the big chains can cost up to $11 a dozen.  How many kids want to eat leftover donuts the next morning?   A six-count bag of name brand labels are as inexpensive as $2 and will definitely last longer than a day.  You can sweeten them with honey, a low sugar spread, and of course, peanut butter which supplied much need protein and is a “good” fat.  

Cookies

A kid’s favorite can easily be replaced with fig bars, graham crackers, and vanilla wafers. And remember, cookies and the other treats don’t have to go away forever.  Kids go to enough activities (think birthday parties) to get the occasional sugary treat.  That may also keep your child from feeling like those foods are completely off limits and they may hide them and binge later.

Now that you know what some foods are, what about ways to incorporate them?  That’s pretty much as simple as making those easy food swaps.

Get them involved 

Kids love helping so let them.  If they are allowed to help in meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing meals, they are far more likely to want to eat them.  And you never know…you may have a budding chef in your family!

Make snacks available

Even if you and your child have made some great healthy new choices, you need to be sure they are always on hand and give your child the freedom to pick the ones they want. The same thing applies when packing a school lunch.  Give them the choices and let them prepare their own lunch.  Not only is it cost saving, but is a good way of knowing that your child is actually eating their lunch.

Be a role model

Just like positive behaviors, you have the power to show your kids the right way to eat.  Plus, there are just as many benefits for you as well!

Start teaching good habits as soon as you can – we all know the sooner something becomes a habit, the easier it is to follow.

Don’t give up

Just because your child may balk at trying new foods doesn’t mean that you throw in the towel!  Kids change tastes all the time, and the food they shy away from now can turn out to be a favorite in no time.

Making healthy eating choices is just as important fo the child as it is for you.  And just like an adult, all it really takes is a little research, a few adjustments and a lot of fun time spent together, and you’re well on your way as a family!