“I have a very difficult time getting my 5-year-old and 9-year-old to eat healthy snacks. All they want are things like potato chips and sugary cereals, which their former babysitter gave them whenever they asked. Any advice?”
As with everything else, the more needy you come across to your children when you want them to do something, the more you run the risk of activating their instinct to do the opposite, especially when they are feeling out of sorts or less connected to you (and therefore less eager to please).
When you offer your children good food to snack on, try not to come across as though you care so much about whether they eat it. Put the food out in a friendly way, and then busy yourself doing something else. If you hover, or try to sell them on how wonderful the snacks are, they may resist simply because of what I call “Mom TV,” which is when our dramatic reactions to our children’s behavior are so interesting that it fuels them to further misbehave! Here’s my advice:
1. Don’t feel obligated to ask your children what they want for their after-school snack if you know it will trigger whining for unhealthy options. Instead, put out things like apples with nut butter, yogurt, or guacamole and chips, rotating what you set out for them to munch on. While some children are what I call “mono-eaters,” wanting the same foods every day, most kids enjoy a little variety, and will be more likely to eat if you mix up the foods you set out for them to snack on.
2. Let them see you eating and enjoying the snacks you offer! Sitting down with your children to savor a few minutes of down time and reconnect while refueling is a great way to model healthy snacking. If you’re grabbing a bite while you scurry around the kitchen, you’ll make it less appealing to your kids to enjoy the yummy food you’ve prepared!
3. Presentation is everything, and kids are masters of creativity, so let them have fun helping you lay out the snacks in an interesting way. They might decorate a dish of yogurt by making a funny face with raisins, or arrange the chips in a special way around the guacamole. It doesn’t take much time to make food look appealing, and it makes children much more interested in eating something when they’ve been responsible for serving it up in a “fancy” way!
Add relaxed connection and fun to the recipe when you serve up your healthy snacks, and your children will naturally choose to eat the wonderful foods you offer. Bon appetit!