Getting our kids to eat healthy food is perhaps the single most common struggle of parenting.
“My son won’t touch vegetables,” one mom says.
“Well, my daughter is surviving on crackers alone right now!” another chimes in.
“I’m so sick of spending an hour making a healthy dinner that the kids refuse to even taste!” cries yet another frustrated parent.
For many families, dinnertime has become less about bonding and more about fighting over how many bites the kids will or will not take tonight.
And yet, you keep trying, don’t you? You keep making an effort to give the kids in your life nourishing, nutritious food. Because you know how important it is.
Here’s a new strategy to try: Stop the fighting. Stop the begging and the pleading for just one more bite. Instead, put that frustrated energy into infusing your family meals with a little more creativity and fun.
One exciting (and educational!) way to do that is by drawing mealtime inspiration from cuisines around the world. Here are some ideas to get your kids eating and enjoying good, wholesome food from beyond their own borders.
Cuisine that draws from diverse cultures from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea offers amazing tastes and endless varieties. Mediterranean cuisine includes numerous common elements that originate from many different ethnicities. Ingredients such as olive oil, fresh vegetables, and seafood, for example, are at home in Mediterranean food. You will also see sparse amounts of grilled meat in your favorite dishes.
As a parent, you should incorporate all the key ingredients of a Mediterranean diet in the food you serve your kids. Vegetable salads, for example, make a fantastic beginning. (Make it more appealing for kids by including a rainbow of colors with different dressing options!) Also add to the mix grilled fish, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar to create exciting combinations that stimulate the taste buds.
Another common ingredient in the Mediterranean diet is goat cheese; it’s stronger than traditional cow’s milk cheese, yes, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Use it to make healthy and flavorful sandwiches your kids will love. Finally, always have on hand spices such as fennel and basil to make your everyday cooking come alive.
When you decide to try food that comes from Vietnam, you will find recipes that have a lot of fish sauce and rice. Those two foods are common to the region, with Thailand being the only nation that consumes more rice. The Vietnamese eat rice as part of practically every meal, including dessert. You and your kids will enjoy rice in its many forms as part of a low-fat diet that has plenty of carbs for energy.
You might enjoy sipping rice wine as you prepare myriad meals that include soups, noodles, and sides featuring fried or fermented rice. In addition, Vietnamese cuisine includes healthy tropical fruits your kids might not be familiar with yet—such as mango, rambutan, durians, and pineapples.
Such fruits provide excellent nutrition and supply the body with vitamins A and C as well as fiber, minerals, and healthy carbohydrates. They also provide an exciting alternative in case your kids got bored of apples, oranges, and other more common fruits.
Rice takes on a whole new meaning in Japan, where it comes in numerous forms alongside foods that come and go with each of the four seasons. Seaweed, mushrooms, and fish combine with rice to make so many different meals that even the Japanese have trouble recognizing all of them! Best of all, kids love the lively tastes that mix sweet and sour to make “delicious.”
In Japan, people eat as many as twelve courses during a single meeting. Adding more side dishes to your meals means that your kids get to choose from a variety of healthy foods and are less likely to get bored or refuse to eat.
When you share Japanese cuisine with children, they too can experience the excitement associated with a bold, fresh new taste in practical every bite. Regardless of whether you prepare deep fried or grilled fish or make dipping sauces from tofu, ginger or soy, your whole family will enjoy exciting, great-tasting, and healthy food.
Turn to the Hawaiian Islands for cooking inspiration that will expand the excitement and inspiration of the food that you prepare. Characterized by fresh seafood and hearty grains, Hawaiian cuisine also encompasses a variety of tropical fruits to create explosions of flavor that contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Rather than frying or baking, you can steam or grill tuna, salmon, and other native fish to improve the health of your entire family.
Hawaii is also home to a number of exciting coconut desserts as well as other treats such as sweet bread and honey. These make for healthy and tasty alternatives to cakes, biscuits, and candy.
As a result of increased global health awareness, the tastes of Hawaii are rapidly spreading around the world. Join the trend and serve them in your kitchen, knowing that your kids will enjoy the exciting tastes and sweet, healthy desserts of Hawaii.
Food from Sweden and other nations of Scandinavia might not have the same high profile as other global cuisines, but it gives you an equally good chance to thrill your kids with healthy eating habits.
Swedish superfoods include knäckebröd, a crispbread recipe made from rye flour. Other great flavors include black currants, an ingredient with many times more vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin A than what blueberries have.
Introduce Scandinavian berries, fruits, and filmjölk yogurt as a new and exciting part of your children’s diet. In addition, consider using Swedish rapeseed oil on salads and as part of the preparation of baked and fried food. Rapeseed oil is a healthy Scandinavian alternative to olive oil and can be used to as dressing for boiled potatoes, another integral part of Swedish cuisine.
We all want what’s best for our kids. Build a lifestyle for them that revolves around experimenting with new healthy foods prepared in nutritious ways.
As you dazzle your children with great-tasting food from some of the healthiest cuisines in the world, you’ll help them create a wonderful life without sacrificing fun, great taste, and excitement. Put a world tour in every lunch bag and at every place setting and watch your children thrive.
Patricia Dimick is a Denver based freelance writer and a fun stay-at-home mom. This passionate coffee drinker loves to write about parenting topics and enjoys DIY projects. Patricia spends her free time playing table tennis or enjoying trips to nature with her precious daughter and loving husband. You can reach her @patricia_dimick.