I have always made healthy eating a priority at home. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Monday through Friday afternoon, are always focused on getting nutritious, satisfying meals into our bellies. I knew once our daughter was born, I wanted to make sure this didn’t change.
Of course, it was easy at first. She only drank milk, and then once solids came into her world, she didn’t know any different. My husband and I didn’t notice any change… still eating our same meals throughout the week.
However, as life got easier (meaning she could feed herself), and my daughter become more independent with her eating behaviors, she wanted to change her eating habits too. She had recently gotten a taste of the “good stuff.” You know what I’m talking about… mac and cheese, pizza, grilled cheese, the “restaurant diet” as our pediatrician calls it.
Now, I am not saying she can’t have these foods once in a while. Trust me, I love a good pizza on the weekends. But, she was asking for these food choices quite often. Then, when I did not approve her request, she refused to eat the healthy foods I placed in front of her.
I knew this behavior was normal, at least I think it was, right? But, I needed to figure out how to change her mindset, without taking away her independence.
So, we started in the kitchen. My daughter has always been the kid who wants to know EVERYTHING going on around her. She is always asking what I am making, how I am doing it, and what is next. Feeding to her interests, I wanted to get her involved with her meals.
We bought a kitchen step stool tower (Little Helper FunPod, from Amazon), allowing her to be up at the counter with me. Whenever possible, I let her help me in the kitchen.
At breakfast, she scrambles our eggs, or adds her own applesauce to her oatmeal, or sprinkles cinnamon into the oatmeal/applesauce mixture.
For lunch, she will count out the number of strawberries I ask her for, and then rinse them. She will pick out her own straw to drink her yogurt, or help me roll her turkey and cheese roll-ups.
One of her favorite things to do is to help make fruit bowls for a snack! We include a lot of counting during this process (“Can I please have 8 strawberries?”), but she also rinses and separates all the fruits into two bowls, one for her and one for me. I ALWAYS do the cutting, and we discuss kitchen safety along the way.
When making dinner, she will pour the quinoa into the boiling pot of chicken broth (with my heavy assistance, and again discussing kitchen safety), put already chopped up salad ingredients into bowls, or stir sauces simmering on the stove.
Obviously, these are all VERY SMALL amounts of help, but to her they are huge. I make a big deal out of the help she provides and praise her for her hard work. If she isn’t interested, I don’t force it. But, most days she is asking to get into her step stool tower to assist in making our meals.
My hope was that including her during the prepping and cooking process, she would be more excited to actually eat her meals. And, to be honest, it really has worked. Maybe not EVERY time. She still requests her favorite mac and cheese some nights, and does not turn down pizza, but overall she is excited to eat the food she has helped make!
Not only has my daughter learned to love healthy foods through this process, but we have been able to spend quality time together in the kitchen. We share stories, discuss meals, laugh, and do some learning along the way.
Let’s get our kids in the kitchen!
Cheers to healthy eating!
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