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I’m a mother of three beautiful children, a 13 year old and 11 year old twins. They have all been eating what my husband and I eat since they could have solid food. They enjoy everything from capers to cod. At first, it surprised me too! Here are some tips to getting your kids to do the same.

No one likes being told what they have to or cannot eat. When children are young, parents can be very concerned that their kids are not eating enough and often times turn to “kid food” in a panic. The reality is that if your child doesn’t eat the carrots you’re offering her right now, don’t cave in and give her gold fish just so she eats something. Keep offering healthy food and when she’s hungry, she’ll eat. Unless your pediatrician tells you your child isn’t gaining enough weight, you have no reason to worry.

As the owner of Big Red House Soup, I was recently asked to do a healthy food tasting at Glen Rock Middle/High School. It’s always a pleasant surprise to witness what boys and girls ages 12-18 eat and enjoy. The idea behind these tastings is to allow kids these age to realize that healthy food can in fact be tasty, too!

Our team started with a variety of foods including our own Big Red House Veggie Chili and Super tomato Soup, which are both packed with multiple servings of veggies, lots of fiber, and of course, protein. A salad with goat cheese and pears followed, and we capped it off with kids favorite food: fries! The chipotle sweet potato “fries” were a big hit, and further proof that eating healthy and eating delicious can go hand in hand. The kids kept coming back for more!

Food should not be about control or restriction. Teaching your kids about proper portion sizes is critical. It should never be “do not eat pizza”. Instead of 2 slices of pizza, suggest to your child that they have 1 slice and some salad, a perfect compromise, and much more nutritionally balanced. If every so often, your child eats 2 slices, it’s OK, it’s just best that it doesn’t become a habit.

Kids follow the lead of their parents and are highly influenced by what and how we eat. Show them what it looks like to be healthy and have a healthy attitude towards food. If you eat your food sitting in front of the TV, at your computer or on the run, chances are your children will too.

Try to sit down for dinner with your kids at least once per week. Make your favorite meal and be sure to include at least 2 vegetable sides, such as a salad and roasted broccoli. Eating is one of the simple pleasures in life. If you’re not sitting down and really enjoying your food, start today and show your kids what that looks like. You’ll be happy you did!

Between 1975 and 2008, the number of products in the average supermarket swelled from an average of 8,948 to almost 47,000, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Simply put: there are so many options these days. It’s hard for us to make healthy choices, let alone try to teach our kids how to navigate. Encourage “everything in moderation.” One small change can make a huge impact, and could be the start of a healthier lifestyle for your children.

Emily Pancer is owner of Big Red House Soup, serving fresh, quality soups in several Bergen County Whole Foods as well as other specialty shops in NJ and NY. Head to their website at bigredhousesoup. com to learn more.

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