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Tracie Wagman

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My Kids Are Great Eaters (And Other Lies)

Posted: 06/20/11 03:29 PM ET

Two things you need to know about me:
1. I try to eat very healthily, to the point of being obnoxious.
2. I love french fries.

Over the past several years, I have slowly and deliberately changed the foods that my family eats. We no longer eat white sugar or white flour. We no longer drink cow's milk. We no longer eat animals (sometimes, very rarely, we eat chicken). People who know this about us gasp: How do your kids get protein? How do your kids get calcium? What exactly do you eat?

It's not that I don't care or don't know, quite the contrary actually -- I have spent hours studying and reading about good foods, bad foods and nutrients. These changes were not made on a whim and continue to change as I learn more and more.

So how do I try to get my kids to eat healthy? Communication. When they have access to information, they want to make the right decisions too. I spend hours sitting with my children at the table making sure they finish their meals before they have their dessert. And we talk A LOT about what food is good, what ingredients are in their foods, and why some foods are not good. Believe me, they still love junk food, and so do I, but even junk food isn't created equal, so we try to stick to organic ones where the ingredient list is less than five items.

It's also been a lot of trial and error. I try new recipes and my kids hate them. I push them to taste everything because sometimes they are surprised. Turns out they like kale when chopped up in a salad (disguised as lettuce), but kale chips, not so much. But, we often find ourselves having bean tacos for dinner -- again! In truth, every kid is a little picky, as are adults. There are some foods we like and some we don't. Who likes everything?

So, here are my tips and tricks for getting my kids to eat well:

1. Force them to at least try new foods. They don't have to like it -- they just have to let it touch their tongues! Make sure they do it many times. It usually takes several tastes before they find they actually like it.
2. I don't believe in hiding vegetables in food BUT when we make tacos, the "lettuce" we use is actually kale. When we make a stir fry, the "rice" we use is actually quinoa. It's not really an outright lie...just a slight misrepresentation.
3. If the food is not in your kitchen, they can't eat it.
4. Be realistic. We still eat junk food sometimes. We still go out for dinner and eat all kinds of foods. Sometimes I fall off the wagon and buy things I shouldn't. No one is perfect.

Tracie Wagman is the owner and publisher of Help We've Got Kids and www.helpwevegotkids.com