Tips for Parents on Getting Their Kids to Eat Healthy

Building your child's acceptance of healthful food takes persistence and a low-key approach to promoting new ingredients, dishes and tastes. If you label dishes or snacks as good or bad, force your child to experiment or use dessert as an incentive to eat something unfamiliar, you run the risk of increasing her resistance to broadening her tastes. Turn meal preparation and meal time into family-oriented fun that involves your child in choosing and preparing what she eats.

Children's Involvement

Children who participate in meal preparation gain interest in the results. Invite your child to join you in the kitchen, not simply as an observer but as a real contributor to your meal-making process. Ask her to check the touchscreen panel on your refrigerator and review the food inventory among its apps so you know what you have, when you stored it and where you placed it. Show her the raw ingredients for a complex stew or baked dish, and give her vegetables to wash or peel. Let her adjust the dividers in the refrigerator's flexible storage drawers. Allow her to monitor the timer on your range controls, and hand you the hot pads when it's time to add items to or remove them from the oven. Play music on your audio dock, or stream it on the TV in your kitchen, to add even more fun to the shared experience.

Baby Steps

Forcing new foods on a child simply increases her unwillingness to try them. Give her structured opportunities to taste new items, either as your kitchen helper who enjoys the inside track on what's for dinner or within a family-friendly buffet that allows her to build her own plate. Invite her to research new ingredients on your home computer or tablet, and incorporate her recommendations into revised versions of familiar menu items or altogether new recipes. Make up small containers of veggie snacks, tuck them into a spot in your refrigerator that you reserve for her use, and invite her to create food reviews that describe her reactions to new experiments. Build on spices and flavors she likes to create sauces and dips for raw or roasted vegetables, easing them into her food repertoire through seasonings that incorporate familiar tastes.

Healthful Drinks

Not all carbonated drinks share sodas' sugary risks. You can remove sodas from your child's list of beverages without eliminating the tingling enjoyment of a bubbling beverage. A refrigerator that dispenses carbonated water through the freezer door, along with ice and filtered water, provides an on-demand starting point for drinks flavored with freshly crushed fruit or sodas made with soy milk. Customizable door shelves include adjustable dividers that accommodate tall and odd-shaped containers, increasing the range of beverage choices you can store where your child can reach them.

Set a Good Example

When you sit down at your computer or tablet to plan a week's or a month's meals, choose dishes and menus that offer new options for the entire family, not just healthful additions that target your child's palate. Model an open-minded approach to new experiments so your child sees that she's not the only member of the family whose taste buds you target. Share menus with your child and invite her to join you on your shopping trips so she can help you select ingredients, check off items from the shopping list on your smartphone and look at other options that might be worth a try. Show her the nutrition facts associated with various versions of a dish, ranging from low-fat to less-healthful, and invite her to develop her own flavorings for the plain versions of snack staples such as microwave popcorn.

Photo Credits: Pamela Follett/Demand Media

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