What the heck do you do when your kid refuses to eat anything healthy?!
JJ Virgin: You're in the midst of major mom guilt! Dinner last night for your 7-year-old consisted of a plate of half-eaten mac and cheese and then a big bowl of ice cream. You can't remember when an actual veggie touched his lips. Wait, it isn't your fault. Everyone knows that your Bobby is such a picky eater.
Wait just a sec. Stop picking on your picky eater.
First of all, kids are supposed to be picky eaters. You can't expect to sit down and serve them halibut with some nice steamed broccoli and have little Susie say, "Mommy, can I please have seconds?" It's never going to happen. Remember when your mom sat you down in front of that plate of liver or gray meatloaf? Ick!
My suggestion is that you stop battling biology and don't give your kids what they will never eat. It's like trying to teach your dog how to sing a song. You can try and then want to rip your hair out. (Never mind that one mother out of 100 who gloats that her child eats salmon. Go away!)
Your job as a mom is to make food that's as clean and nutritious as possible while being the type of stuff your child loves to eat. Think of it this way: You're going to let them "order" from your kiddie menu, but it will just be healthier without the kids even realizing it.
If your child loves spaghetti and meatballs, buy an organic wheat pasta and organic marinara sauce. They won't even know you made the switch. Burgers? Make sure that you buy buns that don't contain high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated fats. Find the leanest grass fed or organic beef. Find those nitrate-free hot dogs, or make your own chicken fingers that are healthier -- check out my recipe. You can also serve grilled chicken with organic ketchup. Kids are also usually crazy about teriyaki chicken. You can even make a barbecue sauce that's better for you by adding a teaspoon of molasses to half a cup of organic ketchup. Buy organic mac and cheese. Try chicken breakfast sausages or eggs with organic cheese. The key is not to start the day with a big dose of sugar from those kiddie cereals.
As a mom, focus on having your children eat healthy protein and some vegetables along with a high-fiber carb. Most children love carrot sticks, and will eat broccoli and romaine lettuce. You can combine all three into a salad with chicken or allow them to dip the veggies in an oil and vinegar mixture as a side. Make a game out of exposing your children to new vegetables, insisting that it's Try Something New Night. They might just eat a little bite of spinach or just two mouthfuls of cauliflower. Exposure equals preference. Let them stop when they want to because you don't want to turn the dinner table into a battlefield. But keep exposing them to the new things -- and eat it with them. You can't say "try this" and then refuse to put it in your mouth. By the way, I have found that if I involve them in the prep, the chance of them eating the food goes up exponentially!
As for dessert, most kids will eat fruit. If the kids want ice cream, then take them to the local frozen yogurt shop. Order a mini or a small, and you will get less calories and less sugar than ice cream and they won't notice the difference.
There are times you will be stuck getting fast food with the kids. Take them to Subway and let them make their own sandwiches packed with veggies. You can even ask the counter worker to pull out some of the bread in the wheat roll. Go light on the mayo. Skip the soda and drink water.
Embrace your picky eater and don't spend every meal begging or yelling at your child to clean their plate. It's far better to sneak in the healthy foods, practice good portion control, and give in a little bit. Yes, you should pack them a chicken or turkey sandwich on a wheat pita for lunch with baby carrots instead of potato chips. Then add one of those organic chocolate chip cookies as a treat.
Remind your child to eat the meal first and then the treat.
Will they? Probably not, but you can dream.
|JJ Virgin, PhD, CNS is a celebrity health and nutrition expert, author, public speaker and media personality. She is internationally recognized as the creator of the Weight Loss Resistance Revolution™ and trains other health care professionals in her program. JJ is the President of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, nanp.org|