Hannah, how do you start to cook healthy for kids who are used to home-cooked fast food (pasta, burgers, shnitzel/potatoes)?
It’s discouraging because sometimes the “meals* are the least eaten.
By best meals I mean the ones I plan. The well-rounded, healthiest, most diverse ingredients. These are the meals that are most likely to be mostly thrown out. It’s very discouraging as my available time for cooking is very short.
Tanya, I can sympathize. My kids used to eat a lot of those things. They still prefer them over healthier food. But they also eat the healthy food. Here are some ideas for making gradual changes.
- Pick the least healthy food that you serve. If it’s processed and expensive, even better. Then stop buying it. You can’t control what your kids eat, but you can control what food is available. After a while, you can eliminate something else.
- Don’t get emotionally involved with your kids’ food choices. If they object to something you make, don’t view it as ungratefulness or a reflection on your worth. That attitude usually backfires.
- Cook the same foods but in a healthier way. Bake shnitzel or cook meatballs instead of frying hamburgers. Add whole wheat bread crumbs and carrots to ground meat, to stretch it. Replace half of white rice with brown.
- Start with a healthy, filling soup. That way you can get vegetables and beans into them when they are hungry, and they won’t eat as much of the less healthy main course. Experiment with different textures and ingredients.
- Have (only) one option for picky kids. “If you don’t want what the family is eating, you can have a peanut butter sandwich.” Don’t get into the habit of cooking separate meals.
- Gradually reduce amounts of unhealthy ingredients. Reduce the sugar, oil and salt and buy lower-fat cheese.
- Be patient and stay the course. There will probably be grumbling, but much of it will pass.
- Save less healthy favorites as a special treat. This can be weekends, once a month or birthdays—whatever you decide.
- Start young. This is especially important if you are planning on more kids.
- Get your kids involved with menu-planning, shopping and cooking. Stay in control, but let them make some decisions too.
- Start with small quantities of a new food. Better to run out because everyone likes it so much, than having to throw it out because you made too much.
- Assume everyone will like it. If kids sense that you are apprehensive about a new food, they are more likely to refuse it.
What healthy changes have you made to your family’s menu? How did your kids react?
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