When the choice is between carrot sticks or Cheetos, which one does your child choose? Yeah, my kids usually go for the eye-blinding-orange-dust-covered Cheetos, too.
As parents, we’ve all been there – we want our kids to eat healthy but sometimes it’s tricky with crazy work and school schedules all mixed in with after-school activities and more (oops, I forgot homework in there).
The good news? With school year about to begin again, it’s the perfect time to get your kids into some healthy eating habits, or maybe renew some old ones. These quick and easy hacks will make it a little easier to ensure your kids are learning healthy eating habits – even if they do have the occasional bag of Cheetos.
Get rid of the junk. If you don’t have overly processed junk food stocked in your house it’s tougher for your kids to eat it. Clean out your pantry, cupboards and refrigerator, and toss the junk.
Grate in veggies. Some kids don’t mind the sight of veggies and for others it inspires panic. Grate vegetables like zucchini and carrots sneak in sauces and stews, such as spaghetti sauce. Your kids will never even know it’s there.
Swap your plates. Big plates inspire big portions. Lay off the over-sized dinner plates and use smaller salad plates at dinner instead so your kids have an easier time eating right-sized portions.
Get decorative. With your plate that is! Use small cookie cutters to create shapes out of slices of semi-firm vegetables and use these to adorn your kiddo’s plate. Better yet, let them make the shapes and put them on each person’s dinner dish.
Make fruit dessert. Kids like dessert. Hey, I do too. But instead of reaching for ice cream or cookies, use fruit to finish the meal. You might even drizzle pieces of peaches, apricots or apples with a little bit of chocolate syrup to make it more tempting.
Roast your vegetables. Baking vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, onion, potatoes, carrots and others at high heat brings out their natural sweetness. Your kids might be more willing to eat their veggies if they’re roasted instead of steamed or sautéed.
Have fruit handy. Put out bowls with apples, oranges, bananas, kiwi and other kid-friendly fruit right on the kitchen counter. The more they see it the more likely they are to eat it.
Grab ‘n go snacks. One reason kids reach for junk food is convenience. Make healthy options simpler to eat by packing them up into baggies. Put together snack bags of whole grain cereal and dried fruit and put them at eye level in the pantry. Stock the refrigerator with bags of carrots, cucumber slices or celery sticks.
Go halfsies. In recipes, substitute half of the all-purpose flour with whole white wheat.
Drink more water. Instead of soda or fruit juices, encourage your kids to drink water. To give it a little flavor, put in lemon or lime wedges. Another idea? Offer them seltzer and mix in some juice, like orange or apple.
Switch to brown rice. For added fiber, use brown rice in place of white rice when cooking. Brown rice is readily available in the freezer section in microwavable bags that cook in 3 minutes. Yes, just 3 minutes!
Plan out dinners. Take a day once a week to plan out dinners with your kids. You’re less likely to make a quick, processed meal if you’ve plotted out what you’re going to have each night. Plus, it’ll make dinner so much less stressful.
Let your kids pick ’em. At the grocers, ask your kids to pick out the produce. You might even have them choose one new-to-them fruit or vegetable to try each week.
Go meatless. Once a week have a meatless dinner night to encourage your kids to expand their palates and eat more greens. For example, you might make stuffed bell peppers, bean-based chili or veggie pizzas.
Use your microwave. Veggies are easy to steam in the microwave and take just minutes. Once they’re steamed, serve them with your dinner.
Turn salad into a meal. Bring salads front and center by having them as the main part of your meal instead of a side! Top them with grilled or sautéed chicken, diced vegetables, beans and chopped nuts for an added crunch.
This post was originally published in 2016 and is updated regularly.