The quickest way to have kids eating healthier is to involve them in meal planning. They love contributing to the process and can feel important when they help decide what the family will be eating. And once they’ve helped plan a meal, they’re much more likely to eat it. Here are tips to get started:
Make it fun
Kids are visual and tactile, so anything you can do to make it more fun will go a long way to getting them on board with meal planning. If you have some picky eaters, start with pictures of vegetables and fruit you want to add to meals. Think about how your own child enjoys art time and try to include that in someway, even if it’s just paper and crayons to use for the list.
Starting out with a list of their favorite meals can be a great way get them more excited about meal planning. You don’t want a week of only macaroni and cheese and hamburgers, so it’s a good idea to start out with a few rules, like “your favorites every other night” or some other limit.
Explain what’s healthy
The biggest benefit to meal planning with kids is cutting down on mealtime battles and healthier eating habits. So without lecturing, explain every meal needs some vegetables and have the choices, with either pictures or a list, to add to the main dishes.
The kid’s cookbook
A kid’s cookbook, with great illustrations and easy instructions, can be invaluable in getting your little ones excited about meals and meal planning. Kid’s cookbooks often have creative ways to prepare vegetables kids don’t usually like, and the meals are sometimes a little different. Just make sure to look through the book first, since some of their cookbooks are mostly desserts.
Grocery shopping together can be an added bonus to the meal planning and you can talk about why you’re choosing one head of lettuce over the other, so they’re learning along the way. It takes more time, but kids find it fun to “hunt and gather” and they love being a part of the process, especially when they get to check off the grocery list.
Involving kids in meal planning can take longer, but the benefits far outweigh the investment in time. It can be a fun way for you to spend time together, and your kids will be eating better and healthier.