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Think the only foods you can feed your kids that they want are fries and burgers? Think again.

As we all know, kids can often be picky eaters when it comes to eating food. Ask a child what's his or her favorite food. Chances are, it'll be something like pizza, hamburgers, or ice cream. Unfortunately, often the healthier types of foods such as asparagus or broccoli are disliked by kids. Unhealthy lifestyle habits for children can often lead to unhealthy lifestyles as adults. Over 1 in 3 children in the United States are overweight or obese. Poor eating habits is a large contributor to this. With some changes to making kids eat healthy, parents can set the child up for leading healthily for good. Here are some tips on getting your children to eat more healthily. 

1. Hide your veggies. This is a great way to make your kids eat healthy foods without them even realizing it. For instance, if you're making spaghetti sauce, along with usual ingredients such as tomatoes and tomato pasta, cook some vegetables to go along with it. Some vegetables include: broccoli, zucchini, carrots, asparagus, bell peppers, and any other vegetables you can think of. After you're finished cooking the vegetables, throw them into the blender along with the tomato sauce and blend it all together! Your child will be eating broccoli without even knowing it. This also works well for mashed potatoes. Cook some cauliflower with it and mash it all together. You can also hide some vegetables in fruit smoothies, such as cucumber, or carrots. The sweetness of the fruit smoothie will make your child love the smoothie without realizing the added fiber and nutrition!

2. Make your food exciting. Just like for anyone else, visuals are very important to kids. If the food tastes great but has poor presentation, they'll probably not even want to touch it. You can try presenting your food in interesting ways, such as placing them into fun, colourful looking bowls. Also, give variety when you plan out meals to cook for the family. Chili may be delicious the first night you serve it, but serving it for days on end can become monotonous and boring. Also, I once saw a chef who was preparing a meal for his kid's birthday party on the Food Network. He created an asian sauce and told his son it was "mysterious dragon sauce". The kids at the party loved it. Would it have had the same effect if he called it soy-chili-sauce? Probably not.

3. Involve your children in the cooking process. When you involve your kids in the shopping, preparation and cooking of food, they'll be more excited about what's on the dinner table and look forward to eating their creations. Take them grocery shopping and show them different food items in the store. Have them help you prepare food. A note, however: remember to be safe in the kitchen. It's best if they perform tasks that don't involve working with sharp knives or being near a hot stove. For example, you could help them with rolling up sushi, or mixing together different ingredients when baking together.

4. Avoid using food as incentive. It's normal in society for people to

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 celebrate using food. At birthday parties, weddings and anniversaries, we tend to like to think of nice things to eat. The same applies for when we're unhappy. The stereotypical binging on ice cream is an example of this. However, try not to use candy as a reward for your child for good work, or keeping your child from eating his or her favourite foods because of disobedience. It's alright to celebrate a big moment by going out for ice cream occasionally, but you do want to avoid having your child pick up bad habits of associating behaviours with foods. Such experiences can lead to emotional eating, rather than eating for nutrition and a happy, healthy lifestyle.

5. Make unhealthy foods a treat rather than the norm. When you eat a lot of similar 

foods day in, day out, your tastebuds begin to accomodate the types of flavours that you eat. Similarly, children should become more used to eating more homecooked meals rather than fast-food meals or quick heat meals so that they can carry their enjoyment of healthy, homecooked meals into their adult lives. It's unreasonable to never let them eat their favourite junk foods from time to time, but there should be a balance and an understanding that junk foods should only be consumed occassionally. As a side note, if you completely ban your children from eating something, it might make them want it even more. Thus, giving them their favorite foods on occassion if they happen to be unhealthy food lets them learn the importance of self-control.
6. Mix and match different food items. Often picky eaters will love to eat one item, but hate eating another one. Unfortunately, there's a good chance the the picky eater will prefer eating something unhealthy. Provide a "comprising" meal where you throw in things that you know the picky eater will like along with healthier food items. For instance, if your child loves eating cheese but hates all things green, try making something like broccoli au gratin. That way you'll serve your child something he or she wants while also serving them something you know is good for them, all in one dish. It's better to make dishes where the various food components are more difficult to separate. That way, your child will feel more obligated to eat things as a whole rather than going through all the effort to separate things.

A Closing Note

While we can all agree that healthy food is better than junk food, all things should be taken into moderation. Make your child more interested in food early on while instilling the belief that food can be healthy and delicious at the same time. This way, you encourage them to develop healthy habits that carry on into their adult lives.