LIVING

Keeping Your Kids Happy And Healthy

07/31/2013 01:25 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
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Happy little boy with strawberry

There comes a time when it’s your kids’ choice to eat their vegetables. When they're babies, it's easy to feed them pureed pumpkin, sweet potato, or even an entire avocado, but as they get older they sometimes turn up their noses at the vegetables on their plate. Luckily, we have some tips to keep your children both healthy and happy during mealtime.

1. Mix it up -- literally

Puree was good enough for them before they had teeth. Now, take that puree and add it to their food. If they like pasta, why not add pureed veggies to the sauce? Kids shouldn’t adopt a liquid diet (they need to experience various tastes and textures), but finding a balance between solid and liquefied veggies is a solid strategy.

Alternatively, you can bake the veggies into their meals instead of blending them down. If your kids love muffins or cake, why not put some vegetables in them? Beets do a great job in chocolate cake or zucchini in muffins. They add moisture and taste great!

2. Instead of ice cream, try frozen smoothies

Kids love ice cream and they'll eat frozen smoothies. Invest in a blender and make your own dessert from actual fruit. Let the kids help by choosing the fruit and helping with the preparation.

Speaking of food preparation, get them involved by taking them shopping. Let them choose a few items to add to the grocery cart and let them prepare them for dinner. Children as young as three can husk corn or mix the salad. Their pride in their work will leave them excited to sample the results.

3. Talk to them at their level

Kids don't care if food is healthy for them. In fact, they can't really conceive of health as a concept, especially if they're very young. Instead explain that eating their veggies will make them taller and stronger, concepts they can understand and see the benefits of.

4. Eat together

Have dinner as a family as often as possible. This not only gives you family time, it also allows you to set an example about food. Kids follow the actions of the adults in their lives. If they see you eating vegetables, they'll eat theirs. Don't force them to eat all their vegetables. If they eat just some of them, consider that a win and use positive reinforcement.

5. Don't have junk food in the house

Kids will choose junk food if it's available. Limit the amount of junk foods in the house and have fruits and vegetables available as snacks for when kids are feeling peckish. Create a schedule that works for you.

6. Add a bit of cheese

A little cheese makes broccoli more appealing and raises the chances of your kids eating it. Use a little bit cheese to make broccoli (and cauliflower) taste more kid-friendly (and even more adult-friendly). Make it fun -- provide sauces for dipping, use vegetables as art work - whatever it takes to get them to like their food and eat it.

7. Don't make two meals

You make one meal for you and your partner, but the kids get pasta. That way leads to picky eaters. Establish from day one that the entire family eats the same meal. Have different sides accompany the main so that kids have some choice.

If your child says they're not hungry, that's fine. When they come back later and tell you they're hungry, offer the same meal as before. Kids will always eat, and if that's the only meal on offer, they will eat it.

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Keeping your kids happy and healthy