If American kids had disposable incomes, they’d probably buy groceries like every day was Halloween – reams of Twizzlers, bushels of candy corn, and pounds of M&M’s, Reese’s, and Kit Kats. Unfortunately, the popular US diet (for adults as well as kids) has its consequences. Namely, 39.6 percent of adults are obese. (Obesity is defined as having a BMI over 30.)
Perhaps even more alarming, about one in three US adolescents or teens is overweight or obese. The health risks associated with excess weight include sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. That’s why it’s important to teach your kids to eat well: so that they grow up to be healthy, active adults. To do so, this might mean coming up with creative ways to inspire your children to appreciate and enjoy that most dreaded of meals: vegetables. Here are some helpful tips to get you started courtesy of guest blogger Jason Kenner.
If your kids eat at the school cafeteria every day, their idea of “healthy food” might narrow down to neon-colored peas or pineapple chunks smushed into plastic ramekins. To teach them about the bounty and splendor of vegetables, take them to a farmers market. You may not know yourself that these markets offer interesting and unusual veggies. From Kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, and green zebra tomatoes to Romanesco broccoli with its intricate coral-like patterns, the offerings can be as lush and varied as perennials in a plant nursery! Letting your kids pick vegetables out of the booths might prove to be enough of a hands-on experience to get them at least familiar with some of the healthiest foods in the world.
Raised Vegetable Beds
If there aren’t many farmers markets in your area, you might consider planting a raised vegetable bed. All you need is to hammer four planks (preferably cedar, since it’s rot-resistant) into a box. Dig out a square gulch, not too deep, in your backyard and fit the box over it and fill it with manure and fertilizer. Then, poke your finger through the surface to make rows where you plant your seedlings. Each vegetable has its own preference regarding sun, shade, moisture, and the month of the year to put it in the ground, but you’ll get all that down. And when you do, you’ll be feeding your kids heirloom tomatoes all summer long, right out of your garden.
Something else to bear in mind: if your backyard needs some additional modifications, as an added bonus, many kinds of home renovations can also increase the appraisal value of your home. Just make sure you keep those receipts!
Parents don’t have loads of free time, so serving your kids gorgeous vegetable medleys may seem preposterous. If so, then try looking up recipes meant to be simple weeknight fare. These might include quesadillas, spaghetti with lentils, tortilla or minestrone soup, or spaghetti squash burrito bowls. Making vegetables a staple of your kids’ diet from a young age may help them eat well for the rest of their lives, a routine that will prove invaluable to their health as they get older.
It’s also essential that your kids are drinking enough water every day. Not only will they avoid the extra sugar that comes with soda and juices, but drinking water removes toxins, prevents dehydration, and regulates body temperature.
Meanwhile, if all these tips fail to lure your kids away from McDonald’s and Arby’s, try good old parenting trickery. Dress up your platter o’ asparagus or broccoli with a dab of butter (which is better for you than you might think) or a fun dip. Make them pick their vegetables out of your raised garden beds so that they can participate in the (suburban) farm-to-table process on their own. Finally, eat vegetables yourself, keep them out as appetizers during meals, and don’t pressure your kids to swallow every wedge of cauliflower on their plates. The less you stress about the importance of eating vegetables, the less they’ll latch onto it as a point of contention, until it’s simply part of your household’s regular diet.
Dr. Teresa Fuller is a pediatrician with an expertise in integrative holistic medicine. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!