By Josephine Morris, food policy coordinator for Arizona at The Humane Society of the United States
Kids are easily excited about fun things like going on a bike ride or adding a furry member to the family. Yet some parents struggle with getting them excited about eating healthy, plant-based foods. Here are five tips to transform mealtime from a power struggle into a fun time for the whole family!
Tip 1: Lead by example.
Kids are sponges when it comes to learning and though they may not want to admit it, they want to be like you. By choosing to eat more plant-based foods yourself, you show your family that you care about your health and the health of the planet. Let your actions demonstrate your values every time you sit down to eat.
Tip 2: Empower kids to choose their foods.
As a parent, I notice that adults often disempower children by assuming they cannot make decisions for themselves. Even as young as six months, children have the capability to decide what foods they enjoy and which ones they don’t. If wilted spinach doesn’t tempt your child but romaine lettuce or kale does, then don’t push it.
Try this: with your children look through healthy cookbook recipes with kale and romaine lettuce as the main ingredients and empower them to pick the ones that stand out.
Tip 3: Get kids excited about what healthy food can do for them.
Parents sometimes think that by saying broccoli is healthy, kids will immediately want to eat it. That may be in some cases but with most kids, they’ll find more benefit in knowing what a food can specifically do for them. Parents can try motivating their children by creating clever and powerful names (like Tough Tomato or Boom Broccoli) for food and explaining how that food has beneficial powers.
Tip 4: Let them feel a sense of accomplishment.
Kids love nothing more than to know that adults are proud of their work. There is always something even very young kids can do to help in the kitchen. They can pour pre-measured ingredients into a mixture. They love to stir batter or dough and help clean up by licking spoons!
Tip 5: Help kids understand how their choices affect the world around them.
Kids like to learn. When families opt for a plant-based dish at the center of a meal instead of a pound of ground beef, they are saving over 2,000 gallons of water, reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the number of animals suffering on factory farms. Sharing good news like this with kids will show them that they should feel good about their compassionate food choices.
What tips would you add? How do you get your kids excited about healthy, plant-based foods? (And if you’re looking for fun, healthy recipes to make with your kids, check these out.)
Note: Image from U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr via a Creative Commons license