I was speaking with a literary agent earlier this week about my book proposal and I thought she was fairly on target when she told me, “I think most parents know what to do but they don’t do it.”
Although I don’t completely agree that parents know how to feed their kids, research shows that they do think it’s a losing battle. In fact, according to a survey by Abbott, more than 75 percent of us give in to picky eating rather than struggle.
When we give in, however, we also make excuses and rationalize what we feed our kids. Like other aspects of parenting, it’s just too hard so we come up with a reason why and let ourselves off the hook. It’s OK to take the easy road every once in awhile but make it a habit and you’re setting your kids up for a lifetime of unhealthy eating and making excuses for themselves too.
The good news is that you can overcome many of the obstacles you face with a few simple strategies. Read on and learn how to tackle 4 of the most common excuses parents make for the way they feed their kids.
1. “There’s no time”
As a working mom myself with two young kids, I know how strapped for time you are. It’s no surprise that planning, cooking and serving healthy meals and snacks takes time. It’s much easier and faster to throw a granola bar or a bag of crackers in their lunch boxes instead of planning out balanced meals that consist of whole foods.
The truth is that if you really want your kids to eat healthy, you have to prioritize it. Then to save time, make large batches of meals you can freeze and re-heat during the week, set aside individual portions of healthy snacks, or pack lunches the night before so you’re not rushed in the morning.
2. “It’s too expensive”
Although healthy food might be more expensive than less healthy food in some categories, consumers think this belief is accurate across the board whether it’s true or not and infer that eating healthy is too expensive, a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found.
It’s much more affordable to feed your kids chips or cookies instead of fruits and vegetables but you can’t put a price tag on your child’s health. Spending money on food that will keep your kid healthy now and throughout his life is well worth it.
Some ways to save that have worked for me include eating less meat, soaking and cooking dry beans, buying in-season and making portions smaller.
3. “He won’t eat that”
This is one excuse that I frequently hear from parents and it’s a myth. Once you decide that your kid only eats foods that are white, always rejects green vegetables or wouldn’t touch a piece of fish simply because that’s been his MO, it becomes reality. You assume that since your kid has refused to eat something multiple times that he’ll never eat it and you give up and feed him what you know he will eat. You cater to his preferences instead of giving him the opportunity to try—and maybe even like—new foods.
Studies show that it can take 15 to 20 times of serving a new food before a child is willing to accept it and you only have to serve a pea sized amount of food for it to work. So keep trying and chances are your kid will be a little foodie in no time.
4. “Kids should be kids”
Why is it that we overhaul are diets when we want to eat healthier but we justify the boxed macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets our kids eat? Perhaps you think you’re robbing your kids of their childhood if you (gasp!) deprive them of their favorite kids’ foods. Sure, childhood is made up of memories of ice cream on hot summer days or cotton candy at the carnival, but feeding them “kids’ food” is actually the best way to rob them of their health now and well into the future.
Instead, take a more balanced approach and only serve treats on the weekends, serve fruit as dessert or make healthier versions of their favorite foods, for example. Serve your kids what you eat and you’ll put an end to picky eating and raise kids who know how to eat healthy.