When it comes to raising kids who eat healthy, you already know the obvious mistakes: too much sugar, not enough vegetables and relying on a package instead of real, wholesome food.
Yet there are other not so clear-cut but common food mistakes parents make despite their best efforts to get their kids to eat healthy. Read on to find out if you’re making the same mistakes and learn what you can do to ensure your kids are eating healthy.
1. Thinking “gluten-free” means healthy
If your kids are on a gluten-free diet because of Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease or another reason, it can definitely be a healthy way to eat.
Yet just because the label says “gluten-free,” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So many of the gluten-free products sold in stores contain gluten, flour and food additives you don’t want your kids eating.
If you’re going gluten-free, make sure your kids eat mostly whole foods that are gluten-free including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and gluten-free grains like oats and quinoa.
2. Serving sports drinks
According to a January 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, between 2011 and 2014, nearly two-thirds of kids in the United States consumed at least one sugary drink on any given day and almost one third drank two or more.
You might think giving your kids a sports or energy drink is a wise idea especially after a practice or game, but these drinks are loaded with sugar. Let’s look at a bottle of Gatorade. It contains a whopping 24 grams of sugar, as much as one package of Twix bars.
Not only is drinking sugar-sweetened beverages linked to weight gain, high cholesterol and Type-2 diabetes but that spike in blood sugar—and subsequent crash—is the last thing your kids need after time on the field.
Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and offer water or water infused with lemon, cucumber or strawberries, which is enough to quench your kids’ thirst and rehydrate.
3. Being a short order cook
If your goal is to get your kids to eat new foods, then cooking a separate meal for them because you’re sure they won’t eat what you served is a big mistake. Not to mention that you’re handing over your power and teaching them that you’ll cater to their preferences.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t give your children choices however, because choices are empowering. If you offer two types of green vegetables or serve two healthy side dishes and let them decide what they want, it’s a win-win for everyone.
What if he doesn’t want to eat? Don’t stress—he won’t starve. After a few nights, he’ll eventually realize that’s how your family eats and he’ll be more amenable.
4. Serving “kid-friendly” food alongside a healthy dinner
I get it: it’s really easy and convenient to open a box of macaroni and cheese and serve it to your kids. It’s a guaranteed win, right?
But here’s the thing: if you’re serving kid-friendly foods because you know your kids aren’t going to eat the healthy dinner you made, they will rarely have the opportunity to taste and experience new types of healthy food. They’ll never crave healthy food the way you do and the picky eating behaviors will continue.
5. Sneaking vegetables
The success of Jessica Seinfield’s book “Deceptively Delicious,” and Missy Chase Lapine’s “The Sneaky Chef,” prove parents will do anything to get their kids to eat healthy. Pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals so your kids will get the nutrients they need and they’ll be none the wiser sounds like a brilliant idea but it’s one big mistake.
Sneaking vegetables into meals defeats the entire purpose of teaching our kids how to eat healthy, make choices for themselves and giving them the opportunity to love healthy food.
Pureeing vegetables can add nutrition to a sauce or a muffin but it should never be a replacement for healthy food in its original form.
6. Making funny faces with food
You’ve seen the creations in cookbooks, parenting magazines and on Pinterest: ordinary fruits and vegetables are transformed into extraordinary funny faces, animals and art masterpieces.
Making a smiley face with fruit salad is cute every once in awhile and it can get your kids—especially toddlers—to try new foods but it shouldn’t be something you do regularly. You want your kids to eat and enjoy healthy food and presenting in a way they’ll eat it throughout their lives instead of expecting food to be a work of art.