This is a guest post by Brooke Bunce.
Actress, reality TV host, writer, and director are just a few of the roles Alison Sweeney has on her extensive resume. Add mom of two, cook, and US Highbush Blueberry Council brand ambassador to the list and that definitely constitutes a packed schedule.
That said, Alison knows better than anyone how to make healthy eating a part of her busy day. She and her husband David were able to get nutritious meals on the table for Megan, 5, and Ben, 9, without too much of a fuss—that is, until Ben decided he didn't want what his parents were preparing for him. Instead of discipline, Alison took another route.
"I challenged him to get an appreciation for how hard it is to make a dinner. He ended up preparing dinner the next night—and it was delicious! He did such a good job," she says.
Now, both Ben and Megan play an active role in dinner prep at the Sweeney household, though it isn't always easy to achieve culinary harmony. Fortunately for the rest of us, Alison recently shared a few of her tricks for those times when your kid's taste buds just won't budge.
On trips to the grocery store, Alison and her husband pick out tons of fresh fruits and veggies to keep on-hand at all times. Then, they take it one step further: "If you have fruit at home and set it in a bowl at the front of the fridge, washed and ready, it looks delicious and it's ready to go," she says. "Every time I put a bowl of blueberries or grapes in the fridge, they're gone instantly." With produce at the ready, it's easier to keep kids away from convenience foods like bagged potato chips.
Give it a New Angle
If your kids aren't enthusiastic about a certain food the first time they try it, don't give up completely. Alison tries different cooking methods when reintroducing foods that her kids didn't like initially. Or, she finds a new way to dress up ordinary produce, such as coating matchsticks of veggies in cornmeal for a healthy spin on French fries.
Assign Everyone a Job
When cooking becomes an integral part of family time, it encourages participation in the kitchen and trying new foods, Alison says. Reimagine meal prep as a positive outlet for little ones' energy; assign simple tasks to the kiddos while adults handle the more complex duties. "If we can change the attitude [around cooking], it can be really fun," Alison says.
Get Kids Invested
Including kids in every step of the process—from gathering fresh produce to sprinkling in seasonings—gives them ownership over their food, which makes them more willing to eat it. "We had a tomato plant in our backyard when Ben was little and he would pluck tomatoes right off the vine and eat them like apples, " Alison says. Ben also helped collect fresh herbs for dinner, too. "When they feel like it's their dish, then they really love eating it."