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Family Food Goals for 2013

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Story by Stacy Whitman

When it comes to healthy eating, I view my family as a work in progress.

Though I take the time to prepare fresh, wholesome meals, my seven-year-old and four-year-old twins aren't always so good about eating them. Reading the book French Kids Eat Everything earlier this year made me realise that I needed to start doing more to cultivate their taste buds and open their minds to new flavors.

Since then, we've made some great strides. All three kids have started eating salmon, upped their consumption of green things, and stopped freaking out when presented with unknown foods (which isn't to say that they eat them but at least they don't pitch a fit).

But we still have a way to go. To that end, I've made some family food goals for the New Year, as follows:

1. Do more make-your-own nights: My kids are usually much more eager to eat healthy food that they help prepare. (Case in point: Our make-your-own salad experiment, which resulted in all my self-professed salad haters heaping their bowls full of mixed greens). Doing it themselves is fun, makes them feel grown up, and gives them complete control over what goes on their plate. And the extra clean-up is completely worth it when I see them willingly taste an unfamiliar or less liked food.

2. Try more Fofod three ways: This is my own little trick for educating my kids about food and getting them interested in sampling new things. It involves presenting one type of food in three different ways. For example, kale: I might serve a raw leaf, kale chips, and kale pesto over noodles. It's a fun thing to do at snack time or with younger kids on a play date.

3. Serve food family-style: I don't do this as often as I should, mainly because of the extra dishes involved. But family-style dining is great because it helps kids be more independent and makes them more likely to try new things. It also allows children to learn and practice social skills, such as taking turns, passing food to others, and saying "please" and "thank you."

4. Snack on veggies: Since I started incorporating more vegetables into my kids' afternoon snacks, they have been eating more of them at snack time and at meals. As the experts say, frequent exposure helps build familiarity, and kids like to eat what they know. I'm not talking about serving a platter of steamed broccoli (though you can if you want to!). I constantly look for new ways to make the vegetables interesting and appetising - for example, by pairing them with a yummy dip, putting them in pancakes or adding them to smoothies. Just don't hide them! As I know from experience, you don't grow vegetable lovers with sneaky tactics. I've learned to tell my kids exactly what they're eating-or better yet, have them help make it so they can see for themselves.

5. Grow a garden: A backyard garden is something that I have long wanted but haven't had the time or energy to commit to. So I've asked my next-door-neighbor if I can share hers. Her kids (age 10 and seven) love arugula, peas and radishes picked from the garden, so I've seen first-hand how it can inspire children to eat veggies. We will need to wait until the ground thaws this spring to get started, but it's on my list for 2013!

6. Stop eating standing up: I find myself doing this sometimes twice a day - no joke! - and it is bad, bad, bad. When you sit down to eat like a civilised person, you're less likely to wolf down your food. And chances are, you'll make more of an effort to prepare something healthy. I always eat at the table with my kids at dinner, and I need to start doing it at breakfast and lunch, too.

About the author: Stacy Whitman is the real-food lovin' mom behind the blog School Bites: One Mom's Crusade for Better Nourished Kids at School (and at Home!) - http://school-bites.com. She invites you to join the conversation on her Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/SchoolBites or Twitter - http://twitter.com/School_Bites, or check out her boards on Pinterest - http://pinterest.com/schoolbites/.

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