how do i get my son to eat healthy

29 Aug

I get asked this question very often, and all I can say is “Well, mostly, I just lucked out.”. My son is an incredibly easy-going and relaxed kid. I don’t know where he gets it from, because both his parents are quite “hyper”, in different ways 🙂

Anyhow, I read all I could about parenting, and tried-out all the ideas I liked. Here are some that worked, and my son also agrees to share.

Tough Love

When my son was little, (read: couldn’t fend for himself), I offered him healthy, nutritious food. If he ate, I praised him a lot. If he didn’t, I took the food away, and didn’t offer him anything to eat until the next meal time. Yes, he got cranky. So, I cuddled and hugged and distracted him with games/nap and did a lot of deep breathing. My mom did not approve, but I stuck with it. Next meal time, I offered him the *same* healthy food again, even the container was the same. This time, he ate it up gratefully. (At that age, meal-times were about 2 hours apart, so I knew he wasn’t going to get sick or anything).

Update: Just wanted to clarify, If he asked for food in between, he did get food. Just the same healthy food 🙂

One weekend of this, and we were set. My son learned to eat whatever was on the table. There was no special meal being cooked for him, nor for anyone else.

It’s important to have consistent rules.

No temptations

When my son got older, (read: figured out the snack drawer and the refrigerator), I simply eliminated junk food from the house. Yup, none for me or the other family members either. All we had at home was home-cooked, healthy meals in the refrigerator. The only “quick snacks” we had were fresh fruits. Fortunately, they happen to be sweet or tangy. Both are flavors my son loves!

No deprivation, either

We have all kinds of rules at home. And all of them are thrown-out when eating out – at a restaurant, a party or someone else’s house. He gets to eat absolutely anything he wants. He can even drink all the soda he wants! Feasting on food once or twice a week never hurt nobody 😉

“One bite” rule

This is the most important rule in our home. Everyone needs to eat exactly one bite of whatever is on the table. No exceptions. If people like what they sampled, they can have more. If they don’t like it, they need not take more. Of course, he tested the rules and refused to take more of the new dish after the first bite. I always thanked him for trying out the dish, and let him eat something else, from the table. And of course, all the dishes on the table were “parent-approved” 😉

Teenage Years

Yes, these are harder than any other. Since he turned 12, he has decided to become non-vegetarian (we were a vegetarian family for past several years), and has become picky about what he will or will not eat. He is free to fix himself any alternate meals if he doesn’t like what’s offered. And he does that frequently. Usually, he sticks to making smoothies and eating fruits.

Going forward

I believe from this point on, my son is exploring being an independent person. He will make his own choices about food, and other things too. I just hope I have done my job as a parent, and shown him how to eat healthy vegetarian meals as a lifestyle. I continue to have the healthy foods at home, though I do bring-in some junk food on special occasions.

I remember how I wanted to do everything the opposite of what my mom did, for several years through my teens and early twenties. Eventually, when I wanted to return to a healthy lifestyle, I remembered how my Mom did it, and returned to my roots.

And I hope, when my son is ready to return to his roots, he will remember how I did it.



3 Responses to “how do i get my son to eat healthy”

  1. SparkaliciousWit August 29, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    I loved your post. Those are great points even for adults. I believe in being open and exploring the world (while being safe). I’ll always try new foods (unless we’re talking about a scorpion…) so I like your “Take one bite” rule. It makes everyone much more learned rather than just rejecting everything that is new and looks familiar. Thanks for linking my article to yours! =) I just wrote another about 4 healthy foods with dangers lurking. You might be interested in that. Come stop by again! Thanks!!

  2. Pradeep Kumar, QPK Sales & Consulting, Inc August 29, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

    Again, a very good topic.

    What if your spouse disagrees with you, especially during meals and in the presence of your children?.

    Is it OK to eat non-vegetarian as long as you make sure that the whatever you are eating was fed ‘organic vegetarian’ diet only? …. 🙂

    • deepthoughttoday August 29, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

      “My mom did not approve, but I stuck with it.” It is important to have good agreement with co-parents/caregivers at home. All of my food rules were only applied at home, not at school and day cares. I didn’t even discuss all this with them.
      My son quickly learned the rules at home. When he made good choices (like commenting at school that broccoli was his favorite vegetable), he got a lot of kudos for that, wherever he was. So my ideas got reinforced outside, without any special efforts.
      And yes, my blog is about reinforcing healthy food habits. If non-vegetarian food is a part of your own healthy diet, then that is fine 🙂

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