If you’re trying to transition your family to clean eating and have been met with lots of resistance, don’t give up! We know it feels like you’re in the trenches—so we’ve got a few more strategies for winning your family over to clean eating with less stress (and more nutrients!).
Here are five tips for getting your kids to actually want to eat clean:
1. Give only ‘great’ choices.
Serve only foods you feel really good about serving— broiled meat or fish, roasted vegetables, or a big crunchy salad—and let the kids know you’re excited about them. Chances are, they won’t be licking their plates clean the first time, but that’s okay. Your kids will be more inclined to move towards these new ‘great’ choices when ‘bad’ choices are off the table. (Can you really expect them to pick green beans when there are French fries on the table?)
Remove their temptations so they have a chance to get acquainted with your new eating style and find healthy foods they like. If you’re desperate, you can always offer an easy real food option like scrambled eggs, oatmeal, or rice pasta tossed with frozen veggies, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Use this technique sparingly, though. Do it too often and you’ll set the expectation that you’re a short-order cook!
2. Don’t force anything.
Implement the rule that your kids need to try everything at least once. We call it the ‘no, thank you bite.’ If they don’t like it, don’t sweat it. Don’t bat an eye and don’t make a fuss about it. A hungry kid will eventually find something they like and eat it up. And it’s okay if they eat just broccoli at dinner one night, because their food choices will balance out over the course of the week. Another benefit of the ‘no, thank you bite’ is that you can prepare foods you like (but know your kids won’t be crazy about) provided you also offer something that you know they’ll like better. This is a great way to introduce your kids to more exotic meals like curry, stir-fry, chili, new vegetables, salads, etc.
If one of your sides is Brussels sprouts (which you love but the little guy probably won’t), make the other side something you know he’ll eat. If you think your kids will be skeeved by the main dish, set some plain protein aside for them. As long as there’s something on the table they’ll eat and they’ve taken their ‘no, thank you bite,’ you’re good!
3. Cook with your kids.
Getting your kids in the kitchen and cooking is a great way to introduce them to new foods and get them interested in this new style of eating. Kids are also more apt to try a new dish when they’ve helped prepare it.
4. Eat together.
Make it a priority to dine together at least a few times each week. Family meals are a great chance for you to be a healthy eating role model. Our kids watch and hear everything we do and say, so if we’re enjoying nutritious foods, the chances are good that they’ll be more receptive to trying them, too. Plus, according to The Family Dinner Project, eating meals together has numerous benefits for kids, like:
- Better academic performance
- Higher self-esteem
- Greater sense of resilience
- Lower risk of substance abuse
- Lower risk of teen pregnancy
- Lower risk of depression
- Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
- Lower rates of obesity
5. Be patient.
Kids may need to try something 10 times before deciding whether or not they like it. Hang in there and continue to offer healthier food choices—and don’t be so quick to offer a second option as soon as they turn their noses up at what you’ve placed in front of them. And if they excuse themselves without really eating only to return with “I’m hungry” shortly after the meal, kindly offer them the meal again without judgment, punishment, or negativity.
The bottom line: Every family (and family member) is different, and depending on how deeply entrenched old behaviors and food preferences are, it can take anywhere from weeks to years to really get everyone on board. Go easy on yourself. Remember, it’s about progress not perfection!
When nothing seems to be getting your kids excited about spending time in the kitchen and eating healthier foods, make this granola bar recipe together and we guarantee it’ll work wonders:
5-Ingredient PB Granola Bars
You’ll never need to (or want to) buy a box of granola bars again! These chewy bars are a breeze to make and a perfect afternoon treat or lunchbox addition for kids and adults alike. Feel free to substitute your favorite dried fruits in for the chocolate chips, if desired.
- 3 cups gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
- ¾ cup creamy or chunky natural peanut butter (substitute nut or seed butter for peanut-free version)
- ⅓ cup honey
- ½ cup mini chocolate chips
- 2 eggs
- Optional add-ins: walnuts, pecans, almonds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or dried fruit.
- Preheat oven to 350℉.
- Warm peanut butter on low heat on the stovetop or microwave until smooth (too hot and the chocolate chips will melt).
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Transfer to a greased nine-by-nine inch baking dish.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.
- Let cool slightly before cutting into 20 squares.
Add a few extra ingredients to customize these bars and make them your own. This is a great opportunity to let your kids be creative and have fun in the kitchen. Some of our favorite additions include dried cherries, raisins, dried blueberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice.
If you want to up the protein, simply substitute one-third cup of protein powder in for one-third cup of the oats.
These bars are also freezer-friendly, so feel free to double the recipe and freeze individually wrapped bars for easy lunch-box additions and snacks later on.