A few days ago, my friend Mish was feeling frustrated about how to get her kids to eat healthier, and like it. She said that her two kids love restaurant food, and traditional dishes their friends bring over, that are usually rich, fatty and yet delicious.
As she struggled to find a balance, and to open her children up to healthier, home-prepared options, she asked, "What do I do? Do I continue bother making food that [my kids] literally eat two tablespoons of and complain the whole time, or do I go back to my old self where I bake with eggs, sugar and white flour, and make their dinners with sausages and mash, which they just LOVE?" Answer: A little of both:
1. Go gradual
Kids need weening time, time to gradually adjust to new foods. So gently wean them off what they're used to (cow's milk, chicken nuggets, etc.). Gradual change is key!
2. Be subtle
Do NOT announce to kids when serving them, "This is a healthy dish I made. It's vegan!" Keep it on the DL. Never announce to kids that you've made a "healthy" or "vegan" or "gluten-free" anything. Say, "I made cookies!" And even a little white lie is ok, especially at first while they get used to these healthy alternate versions, "They're just regular ol' cookies."
3. You can't win 'em all
Let them eat white rice and white bread if that's their preference and they won't budge, for now. Curry, for example, can easily be made healthy and in fact already is healthy! So if they prefer it served with white rice instead of brown, so be it.
4. Let them order what they want
When eating out either at a restaurant or the school cafeteria, let them have whatever they want. You pick the restaurant, and as long as you're only offering healthy food at home, there will be balance, and actually they will start to make better choices over time. So yes, let them eat the canteen (cafeteria) food at school once a week as a treat.
5. Crowd out the junk
By introducing one new vegetable or fruit at a time, they're gradually crowding out the fun foods like potato chips and ice cream. If they like the new veggie, keep giving it to them! My 12-year old still won't eat broccoli, but he has worked up to green beans, cucumber and Brussels sprouts. Find out what they like among the healthy ingredients and give them that.
6. Let them eat cake!
Find healthy desserts and treats with organic, pronoucable ingredients. Health food stores have LOTS of options. Kids like everything Sweet! So you can also add a little coconut sugar to their savory curry, or stir fry or pasta sauce or whatever you're making.
7. Swap out
As far as the baking goes, you can make healthier versions of everything without them knowing. So swap out baking ingredients for alternatives like whole wheat or gluten-free flour, egg substitutes like applesauce (or only pasture raised organic eggs), almond milk and coconut sugar. They won't know the difference if you don't tell them.
Bonus Tip: Don't give up
Over the course of about five years, I gradually converted my kitchen to 100% vegan, and yes my kids protested and complained at first, but eventually they had to accept that this is the new way.