Sneaky Ways To Make Sure Your Kid Is Getting The Nutrition They Need
When it comes to raising happy, healthy kids, you sometimes need to be stealth. If they haven’t yet learned to read, you can confidently say, “No ice cream on this menu, silly!” even if there definitely is. Sometimes smart bribes will successfully get them to perform tasks like cleaning up their stuff — and those bribes hold a special place in your parenting arsenal. But when it comes to getting your kids to eat and enjoy food that's actually good for them, it can be hard to stay in supermom-mode.
As a mom of two girls myself, I know the stress that comes with making sure your kids are getting all the nutrients they need. Luckily, there are smart ways to make sure they're eating right without losing your mind after they’ve once again turned up their nose at broccoli, carrots, or kale for the tenth time this week.
To ease you through this all-too-relatable parenting struggle, Romper has partnered with MyBite Vitamins to share five ways you can make sure your kids are getting the essential nutrients they need each day — and I promise the tips are better than bribing them with episodes of their favorite TV show.
1. Creativity Is Key
Just as you’re more likely to inhale food presented on a chocolate-monogrammed plate, kids are more likely to eat eye-catching foods, too. This can come in the form of a fun-shaped plate that does the work for you, or even something quick like shaping your little one’s meal into a smiley face. Or try this simple food-prep tweak: Nutritionist Lisa Young, an adjunct professor at NYU and counselor to adults and children, recommends serving a frozen banana with peanut butter as a fun way to get your kids to eat more fruit.
Another solution may be simpler than you realize: “Dips can be a great way to boost nutrition content, as kids like any way they can ‘play’ with their foods,” says Crystal Karges, a San Diego-based registered dietitian nutritionist, and maternal health and child feeding expert. “Some ideas might be serving veggies or whole grain crackers with hummus, guacamole, or a yogurt-based dip. Fresh fruit dips well in vanilla greek yogurt. Any time food is interactive, it becomes more appealing to kids.”
2. Try A Tasty Children’s Multivitamin
If the word “creativity” gives you perma-eye roll, I get it. After a long day at work or time spent with your kids, the last thing you may want to do is create a masterpiece in the kitchen. Thankfully, MyBite Kidz Multi has done the hard work for you. It’s a complete daily multivitamin for kids ages 4 and up, and the best part? It's disguised as a chocolatey bite with caramel and peanuts. They’re super tasty and have the same levels of essential vitamins and nutrients as those traditional pill or gummy vitamins, but you can’t help but savor their caramel and peanut deliciousness. My own picky eater tried them and practically morphed into an emoji heart.
“Multivitamins can be helpful for kids to ensure they are getting their micronutrient needs met, especially key vitamins and minerals,” Karges explains. “[A multivitamin] might be especially helpful for a child who is a selective or extreme picky eater, or who has a medical need that makes it more challenging to eat a variety of foods.”
For kids that are vegetarians or follow gluten-free diets, MyBite Kidz Multi — which is vegetarian, gluten-free, and certified Kosher OU-D — may be able to offer you the peace of mind you're looking for. “Children who are on any type of restricted diet due to food allergies or intolerances may benefit from a multivitamin, as might children who are following a vegan diet,” Karges adds. “As a general rule, when choosing a multivitamin for a child, be sure to look for one that does not provide more than 100 percent of the daily value for any vitamin or mineral to avoid toxicity.”
MyBite also offers a variety of dietary supplements for the whole family, like MyBite Hers women's multivitamin. For more information on MyBite Kidz — and to purchase for your own kids! — check out the link below.
3. Add Nutrient-Dense Ingredients To Their Favorite Foods
There are so many ways to make this tried-and-true hack work for your little one's food preferences. “Recreate a child's favorite dish that they are already familiar with by adding in nutrient-dense ingredients — such as adding fresh greens to a smoothie, making oven-baked veggie fries with dip, or adding fruits and veggies into baked goods," says Young. A simple place to start? Try an easy-to-customize smoothie. Young suggests whipping up something fresh with veggies like spinach, beets, or carrots, then adding more tasty nutrition like milk or yogurt, fruit, flaxseeds, and nut butter.
Karges also suggests making simple swaps to up the nutrient content of any dish, such as mixing veggies like sun-dried tomatoes or peas into mac and cheese. “With mac and cheese, you can switch out the pasta for a whole grain, lentil, or bean-based pasta to help boost the vitamin and mineral content, as well as add more fiber and protein,” she says. “Adding in plain Greek yogurt to mac and cheese can also boost the protein and calcium content and make a creamy addition to this kid-favorite dish."
4. Keep Feeding Them New Foods Without Pressure
It’s smart to go with what they know. “Start with the foods that your child might already be comfortable with and build off that,” Karges explains. “The key with kids is to offer constant exposure to foods they are learning to eat — like vegetables — without any kind of pressure. Research has found that kids need repeated exposure to new foods before accepting them, but not adding any pressure or forcing kids to eat something is key.”
It could be a #DinnertimeWin if you ask them to select what they want for their meal. “To get kids to eat veggies, say, ‘Would you like broccoli or carrots?’ This way, they have to pick one of them,” Young suggests.
Instead of putting a giant bowl of broccoli in front of them — knowing full well the reaction you’re going to get — try giving them meals with variety, like small portions of fruit, a protein, and a vegetable. Food that is their kryptonite may not seem so bad in smaller portions, and you can increase the size as they develop their tastes.
5. Don’t Describe Foods As "Healthy"
There may be a reason they give you a hard pass whenever you suggest a “healthy” carrot or celery stick. “Studies have found that when parents describe foods as being ‘healthy,’ kids might actually be more resistant to eating them,” Karges explains.
She encourages parents to focus on food characteristics, like flavors and textures, adding, “Asking a child to describe the sound a food makes when they eat it or talking about the different colors on their plates can help them feel more comfortable eating.”
Removing the stress of “Ugh, why won’t you eat this?!” from the table talk can help as well. Make mealtime more about their day, not about how many times they move a piece of food from plate to mouth. It can change the conversation to something more positive and fulfilling, in more ways than one.
This post is sponsored by MyBite Vitamins.