By: Holly L. Goroff MS, RD, CDN
It’s also important to intentionally show a family how to balance the nutritional and social elements of meals. For example if you never, or even almost never, allow your child to have ‘junk’ food or treat foods, when they go to their friends birthday party, you can bet they are going to over indulge in the pizza and treats because it’s their only chance! You can help prevent that reflex by not making it the ‘forbidden…food’.
This can be done by scheduling a ‘treat food night’ and letting the children have a say in the treat food. Add a healthy side to show that even for treat foods, a healthy element should be added for a more fulfilled feeling and health benefits. A good example for families is when you have a pizza night, add a salad. Or when you have burgers, swap out French fries for corn on the cob or a baked potato.
Here are a few tips to help children embrace healthier meal options:
- Get creative for both you and your children with healthy meals: No need to have grilled chicken salad every night. Learn how to make easy, healthier versions of your favorite meals by using healthy fats to increase fullness and practice portion control.
- Try different preparations: Instead of steaming, try roasting or sautéing vegetables with garlic and olive oil. Flavors change palatability.
- Involve children in choosing or preparing the meal: Let them look at the cookbook with you and make a list of what you will need to purchase at the store. Have them help you find those items when shopping and teach them little facts about each product.
- Make a balanced meal: Include a protein, carbohydrate, healthy fat and a vegetable or two. That way if they legitimately don’t like something they have other options.
- Involve them in planning the treats: See what treats they pick out. This can be both educational and eye opening for parents as you’d be surprised what children consider a treat.
- Make the plate look fun: Use a variety of bright and colorful produce since colors appeal to children. You can also cut their meals into fun shapes and make faces with the food. My friend once made a ravioli dish look like a spider web using strips of peppers! How cool is that!?
- The “Polite Bite”: I can’t take credit for this one, but again I learned this from a seasoned mom. The rule is that everything made requires at least a bite (or at least taste). The child is free to not like it and will not be forced to eat it, but they are required to taste it to be polite and will be reminded that this IS dinner.
She received her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from the Steinhardt School at New York University. She is published through her research and contributing work at Burke Rehabilitation Center investigating nutritional factors impacting neurological rehabilitation in stroke patients.
In addition to managing her staff of clinical nutritionists, she has a passion for serving at-need and underserved communities. She teaches outreach programs focused on mindful eating and strategies to make healthier lifestyle choices to at-risk community populations. She has recently been made lead in her hospital for teaching and managing the outreach classes to reduce childhood obesity.
She has expertise in: weight loss and management, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dealing with polypharmacy and achieving nutrition goals, achieving wellness goals in a creative and resourceful manner and motivating change.