4 Fun Ways to Treat Your Kids to Better Health

Mother introducing brocolli to child
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My healthy eating philosophy is simple, but it works. Kids should enjoy good-for-you foods, and their parents should, too. And while making food tasty and kid-friendly is key, that doesn't mean the only option is to make a healthier version of burger and fries. That being said, a healthier burger and fries certainly can be part of a healthy eating plan.
My key message is to keep the whole family involved in healthy eating. That means serving up plenty of greens and fresh fruits, staying lean on the meats, choosing whole grains, and the less processed food the better. 
Here are a few practical ways to get there.
Let Them be Pick-y
Educate your children on the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Let your children choose the most colorful fruits and vegetables that capture their eyes. If you go to a farmers market, these will likely be the freshest in-season choices. At a grocery store, this is not necessarily the case. However, including your child on these decisions is what is most important. If kids get to pick it, there's a better chance they'll eat it.
Create Rainbows
Fruits and vegetables carry some of the most beautiful and varied colors. Let your children choose the colors of the rainbow to ensure a variety of plant-based nutrients. These colorful plant foods also contain a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidant nutrients that both children and adults need to stay healthy.
Build a Bento
Traditional Japanese bento boxes contain single serving portions of foods like rice, fish and noodles—often styled to create kid-friendly characters. You can use the same concept to dress up healthy meals for your kids. For instance, you can place a handful of blueberries in one container, a dollop of yogurt (or yogurt dip) in another, some sugar snap peas and carrots and perhaps a bit of low fat cheese (or a natural nut butter) on whole wheat crackers or whole grain bread in the remaining sections. Mix it up and make it colorful! Just be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables, a lean protein, a whole grain, and some low-fat dairy.
Cook up a Theme Night
Make meal time fun with a theme night or two. "Taco Tuesday" and "Spaghetti Wednesday" are two ways I've made dinner into a special event. The best thing is that even a theme night can be flexible. "Taco Tuesday" can mean lean ground beef tacos with tomatoes, low-fat cheese and shredded lettuce. It can also mean fish tacos, bean tacos and any number of garnishes that you can change up weekly. How about a mango salsa instead of tomatoes?
"Spaghetti Wednesday" can be representative for any and all pasta. Try mini shells with peas, basil and a little olive oil and some low-fat cheese. Or opt for a more traditional marinara on spaghetti noodles served with"trees"—that's right, broccoli!
However you do it, getting your kids involved in making healthy choices requires planning ahead. Letting your kids help you choose and plan increases their interest and desire to be a part of the healthy eating lifestyle that the whole family can enjoy.

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Lauren O'Connor, MS, RD
Lauren O’Connor, MS, RDN, is a Los Angeles-based private practice dietitian, recipe developer and owner of Nutri Savvy Health, a program focusing on mindful eating and family nutrition. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.