By Chef Oscar Sanchez
When was the last time anyone heard of a child sitting down at the dinner table and saying, “Gee, thanks for this delicious plate of healthy food! Can I have seconds?” These tips will help to make good food choices more attractive for children.
Children can help to plan meals, go grocery shopping and prepare food. They will become invested in the process and more likely to eat what they select and prepare. Even toddlers too young to make grocery lists can help make choices (pears or nectarines) as a beginning to eating healthy. Simple, no-cook recipes like frozen yogurt popsicles or fruit parfaits are an excellent way to get young chefs interested in healthy cooking and eating.
Teach kids the source of food. Rather than limiting the family to the weekly supermarket run, take the family to a local farmer’s market or to the farm itself and meet the people who grow the food. Picking berries from a vine can help nurture a lifelong love of good eating and environmental stewardship. Visiting a dairy farm can teach children where their milk comes from (and why everyone should care about what goes in it). Planting tomatoes and melons in the garden may tempt a child to try the fruits of his or her labor.
If the kitchen is exclusively filled with healthy treats, children will eat them. As children grow, stock good snacks in cabinets and shelves that they can reach without the help of an adult.
Make sure to be prepared with nutritious snacks whether driving the carpool or going to soccer practice. Good choices include sliced apples, carrot sticks, whole grain crackers, light popcorn, raisins and water.
Like adults, kids want to have it their way. But no parent wants to be a short order cook, making different meals for different family members. Instead, try the fixings bar approach. Offer a suitable base meal like rice and beans, whole-wheat tortillas or lean ground taco meat. Then let kids (and adults) dress it up with chopped tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, cheese, salsa, jicama, parsley, peppers and other toppings. Also try a pasta bar with a variety of healthy sauces.
Kids like choices at snack time too, so consider packing an insulated lunch bag full of good snacks so they can make their own smart choices.
Remember that a child doesn’t have to just eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. She or he can also drink them. Smoothies and mixed fruit drinks like watermelon smoothie and mango lassi can be a fun way to introduce new fruits.
A recent study found that young children’s food tastes are significantly related to foods that their mothers liked and disliked. When a child hears an adult order a fresh salad rather a burger and fries at the drive-through, this may encourage him or her to do the same in the future.
Studies show that most children need multiple exposures to try new foods. Offering a child the same fruit or vegetable five nights in a row is not the way. Just don’t give up the first time a child rejects something.
Spring is a great season for many fresh fruits and vegetables. Share it with children for healthy choices.Executive Chef Oscar Sanchez owns and operates Oscar Catering.
For more information, call 702.426.1330 or visit OscarCateringLV.com.