Singer, actress, fashion designer, entrepreneur, writer, and mom of two Thalía shares her parenting, lifestyle, fashion, and beauty tips as a POPSUGAR Latina contributor.
5 Supereasy Tricks to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy
Back to school is here! This is such a great time for us! It is that time of the year when my children get very excited about the new friends they are about to meet at school, seeing old friends, and learning new things. At their ages — my daughter is 7 and my son is 4 — they are like sponges. They absorb everything that is happening around them, and their brains are developing at such a fast pace. Therefore, it is very important for me to make sure that they are eating healthy to nurture their growing bodies and curious minds. Although, many times, that is easier said than done! Through trial and error, here are some tips and tricks that I have figured out over the years.
1. Make It Fun and Colorful
Many children don't want to try the fruits and veggies we put in front of them at the table. So, making it a fun, nonthreatening experience for them is a must. One of the quick and easy things I like to do is to buy cookie cutters in many different shapes and use them to cut fruits like watermelon and papaya, whole-grain breads, and vegetables. In addition, I try plating foods of different colors and textures together to make it interesting. Not only are highly pigmented foods full of vitamins and minerals, but they are also pretty to look at. The vibrant colors, in addition to the fun shapes, allow for creativity when plating the foods and make it a joyful experience for them. Most importantly, they get distracted and eat without putting too much thought into it!
2. Ask Them to Participate
One of the most successful strategies in my home is to include my kids in the preparation of their meals. Once they are in the kitchen, they get excited about helping, and they begin to better understand the prepping and cooking processes. They love it when they get to use food as art and put together renditions of their favorite animals and characters! For example, we have popsicle molds in shapes of different animals, where they freeze a mixture of yogurt, berries, mango, and bananas blended in the Bullet blender. The sense of accomplishment drives them to try the things that they just helped prepare. Even if they do not like some of the foods, at least you got them to take that big step of trying something new.
3. Pack an After-School Special
Whenever I can, I bring my children tasty and nutritious snacks to eat when I pick them up from school. I think of it as a bento box filled with healthy goodies. Things like yogurt and fruit, whole-grain crackers and cheese, pretzels, and high-fiber chocolate chip bars work wonders because they placate their hunger and prevent them from picking less-healthy options. This afternoon snack, many times, tides them over until dinner is ready and helps me avert those dreaded meltdowns.
4. It Is OK to Disguise It
Let's face it, children are picky eaters. Sometimes, it doesn't matter how many tricks we try to get them to eat healthy foods, they will just stand their ground and ignore us. That is when I take the next step and disguise some foods with others. It has been tried by many, and there are great recipe books out there with outstanding ideas. Often, one of the easiest ways for me to get them to eat something they say they do not like is to add it to the pasta sauce. They love the gluten-free and quinoa pasta we cook for them at home, and many times they have no clue that I added a blend of protein and veggies to the sauce. I follow by letting them sprinkle a little bit of parmigiano-reggiano on top of their pasta, and this distracts them enough that they end up eating the food that is in front of them without picking it apart.
My children also enjoy eating meatball hero sandwiches. So, I take advantage of that and make sure to mix a blend of zucchini, broccoli, and other vegetables in the meat. The important thing is to ensure that there are absolutely no visible green specks that may make them change their mind about eating the meatballs.
Another idea I use often is to prepare multigrain pancakes ahead of time and keep them in the freezer. I add chia seeds and organic cocoa chips to the pancake batter, and they absolutely love that combination of crunchy and chocolaty.
5. Remember: Monkey See, Monkey Do
I believe that children are more comfortable trying new, healthy foods if they see their parents and family members eating them. Children in their formative years will often mimic their parents' behaviors. That is what happens in my home. Each time I want to introduce them to a new food, I make sure that my husband and I eat it in front of them at the dinner table. This seems to encourage them and makes them more comfortable with the specific food.
I use a similar technique with regards to sugary foods. Since I know my children may eat candy, ice cream, and cake at birthday parties or other special occasions outside of the home, I am very careful about not having those foods available in the house for them to eat. I also make sure not to eat those things in front of them often. If they want something sweet, I give them natural fruit juices, and now that they are older, I also prepare yogurt smoothies, sweetened with honey or pure maple syrup, that I drink with them.
There is no question that each child is different and has a unique relationship with food. Some children are extremely adventurous eaters, while others make sure you empty your bag of tricks before they decide to eat just one bite of a specific food. The most important thing for me is to be patient with them and show them that there are many different healthy options for them to choose from. I like leading by example, and I hope my children will get inspired by my husband and me, follow our steps, and live healthy, balanced lives and make nutritious food choices along the way.