With the world (meaning, food marketers) trying their best to hook your kids on their junky packaged foods, you’ve got to fight back hard! And we know – you’re already busy just trying to get your kids to school/practice/lessons/play dates/etc. … you don’t have time to give them food lectures (and lectures don’t work, anyway)!
Here are 6 fun, simple ways to help break the hold the food companies have on your kids, and instead hook them on healthy, amazing, REAL food:
1. Grow Food: Even if you only have room for a small pot of herbs in a city apartment, involving a child in growing has been shown to pay lifetime dividends in vegetable consumption. A child who helped grow the parsley will HAPPILY urge the whole family to taste their very own parsley salad.
2. Introduce kids to “ingredients” in their native form: If you’re making soup, keep little bits of the raw ingredients aside for a “tasting session,” then have them try to identify the celery, the onion, the carrot, etc. in the soup. Discuss how cooking changes the texture and flavor of the ingredients.
3. Keep herbs/spices and interesting condiments on the table, and encourage experimentation: I learned this when I left cinnamon on the table, and my son added it to an almond butter sandwich. It turned out to be a great flavor combo, and he gobbled down the sandwich that “he” had made. Hot sauces, flavored oils, fun spices like ginger and vanilla, and other tasty add-ins will help build interest and creativity around the whole foods you’re serving, and help kids personalize their food.
4. Build a family cookbook: Encourage kids to take pictures of their favorite meals/dishes (get family members in the pics, too!), name the dishes together, and keep them in a photo album. Keep it in the kitchen as a frequent reminder of the great real food family times you’ve had, so your kids learn to associate real food with great moments.
5. Celebrate with Real Food! Don’t fall prey to the seductive marketing message to use celebrations as an excuse to eat junk. That sends exactly the wrong message: that these foods are “rewards,” and these false “rewards” become anchored in the pleasure centers of your child’s brain. Instead, celebrate by making extra-beautiful, extra-fresh meals together during the holidays and other special days.
6. COOK TOGETHER: Nothing else will make your child more immune to the marketer’s siren song about “convenience” than this. When your child knows that an egg can be cooked, a salad can be tossed, a veggie can be braised, or a smoothie can be blended in literally minutes, you give them the tools and the tastebuds they need to resist the call of the microwaved Frankenfood that marketers want them to buy.
Most of all, make real food a centerpiece of loving family moments, and kids will grow up associating real food with great family feelings.
Six Ways to Hook Kids on Real Food, by Jennifer Silverberg, Eat Yourself Well