You may think that because your children have reached an age where they are thinking for themselves that the time for influencing their decisions about food is past. After all, now that your children are spending large parts of their days away from you at school, child-care, and organized activities your control over what they eat is much more limited.
If your child throws out a healthy lunch to eat from the vending machine, there just isn't much you can do about it, is there? Well actually, you can do a lot to change your child's attitudes about food and to instill healthy and happy habits of consumption. In fact, now that your child is really old enough to think about the matter and make up his or her own mind, you may find that things are easier than ever.
The first and best thing that you can do is always to lead by example with your children. They need to know that you have a good relationship with food. Enjoying healthy, balanced meals with them is one way to do that. In doing so you instill some of the basic information that shapes their conception of the way things should be. Now that your child is older, you can go a bit farther with things.
When your child refuses to eat something or tells you that they don't like it, you can engage in discussion and draw them out. Ask why they do or don't like the food and then tell them what you think or why you served it. Respect their stated views, but don't allow them to wiggle out of eating a balanced meal.
Another way to engage your child's interest in foods is to make them a part of the time you two share. Consider signing up for a parent and child cooking class where you can get your hands on food an play with it together in a no pressure zone. Just being together will be a treat for both of you and offer another opportunity to discuss the issues surrounding food.
Alternatively, you could plant a garden together and attempt to grow the fruits and veggies that you will later cook with and eat. This will give your child a sense of ownership over the vegetables and they may be much more eager to try food that they themselves have grown. Like the vegetables, healthy eating habits will not appear to make a mark on your child overnight. Instead, you are looking to expose your child to new ideas about eating and food.
Engaging him or her intellectually as well a on a purely physical level will increase the likelihood of message penetration. If you back your discussions up by routinely offering your child the right kinds of yummy snacks and meals, the two of you may find yourselves seeing eye to eye on the matter much more quickly than you thought.