Obesity is a huge health problem today. Childhood obesity in America has tripled in the last 30ish years!!! Healthy habits start in the home and at a very early age. Our habits and relationship with food can stem from childhood teachings that we subconsciously act on as adults. Think about it-how many of you were told to clean your plate, to eat at certain times? Or, that Campbell’s Chicken soup, crackers, and Sprite help you when you are sick? That a huge glass of milk was required for breakfast? That certain foods are “good” and certain foods are “bad”?? That you were “supposed” to be skinny? Or that “everyone in your family is overweight” , so , its genetic?
The good news is, no matter your age, you CAN change your mindset about the things you eat and a healthy diet. For your kids , who are still forming their relationship with their bodies and food , you can start at an early age to hopefully help them form healthy habits and ideas!!!
So, most parents know that their kids “should” eat fruits and vegetables. Do you want to now how to get your kids to eat more fruits and veggies? Join the ranks of thousands of other parents. Has dinner time turned into a war zone ? You don’t have to be the person above who is handing out salad kits on halloween to have your kid eat healthier foods. ? I’m here to help!! ?
These are some suggestions / things I’ve tried :
(They aren’t just for kids!! I think a lot of us adults could use help with these habits/ mindsets regarding our food !!)
- Talk to your kids about their food!!! Don’t just put it in front of them and make them eat unknown substances. You can tell them the names of the items, how you made it, where it comes from, and how it helps your body. Learn what is a protein , carb, fat, fruit , vegetable, or fiber.
- Get them involved in grocery shopping, food preparation, and food serving (setting the table, making the plates etc). Small kids can help more than you think ! My kids love pulling parsley or cilantro , cutting grape tomatoes or mushrooms, rolling meatballs, rinsing fruit, making smoothies, measuring seasonings….this is a good time to teach about kitchen utensils and knife safety. Kids love this! Make it fun.
- Don’t assign “good” and “bad” to food items. They are objects. They serve a purpose. A snicker’s could save your life if you were stranded in a desert without food…foods aren’t inherently good or bad. They have nutritional value. A good way to explain to children is by saying these foods are required for healthy growing /learning and these other foods ( treats /candy etc) are extra-we eat them in moderation.
- Always eat the protein , fruit, vegetables, etc first before the treats. If you are too full to eat necessary foods, then you shouldn’t stuff yourself with treats when you are pass the point of fullness. If my kids say “I’m hungry” , I don’t offer them a treat-I offer them nourishing foods. If they say “I want a treat” , I ask them what all they have eaten today, when is the last time they ate, what are they thinking that they want for this treat…If they have already had some type of sugary treat several times a day, I talk to them about that and moderation. You can offer it to them for another day-like , “hey let’s wait until tomorrow night, and we can all go out for ice cream after we eat our supper”. Most kids that I see whose parents say ” they just don’t want to eat” or they “don’t eat much” are actually just snacking all day , so they don’t ever feel hungry enough to eat a full nutritious meal.
- Never make them eat when they aren’t hungry. I feel this is SO SO important. Let them be the regulators of their own hunger. If my kid says , “I’m done eating” , I say no problem, you never have to eat if you aren’t hungry. If they come to me 20 minutes later and say ” hey , can I have a snack /treat/ chips /crackers , etc” , I say : “oh are you hungry now?” If they say yes, then they can eat their nutritious meal from earlier…because protein/fruit/veggies/etc is for nourishing your hunger, not a “snack”.
- Feed the whole family the same meal. Don’t make them feel that they are different or should eat “kid food”. Offer them 1 or 2 choices, but, don’t keep making/serving them food that is “for kids (which is usually not as nutritious )” because they don’t like what you are eating. Kids are fallible humans just like adults-they will go for Oreos over a nutritious supper…..they will continue refusing nutritious foods for more fatty/sugary/palatable treats if you allow them. If they do this, it’s because you have allowed it. If you have been doing this and want to change, sit them down and talk to them about it. Kids are very approachable and like to know what changes will be made in their lives. Honesty is best…which brings me to my next point….
- Stop trying to “trick ” them into eating foods that you have hidden vegetables in . Don’t lie to them. They will find out one day and it will make a negative association with the foods…like, you think they are so bad that you had to hide them in muffins and add honey to it for them to eat it. Of course, nothing is wrong with making zucchini brownies or protein carrot cake muffins (for examples) , but, be honest with them about what you are putting in it. Plus, this lets them know how versatile fruits and vegetables can be.
- Try different ways of cooking /serving a food even if they say they don’t like it. For example, I like oven -roasted broccoli that is slightly crisped on top…My son does not…he kept saying he didn’t like it…but, one day I steamed it and salted it and he loved it! Same thing with meat…they may not like baked chicken, but , they love rotisserie or shredded chicken…I always make them try it or eat it , but , I listen to what they are saying and try new things for them when I can.
- Don’t feed your kids for obedience or quiet-time. If you start paying attention to this, you will be mind blown at how often people automatically start offering kids snacks everywhere they go…during 40 minute story hour or a 30 minute Sunday School class or a 1 hour meeting..I have seen people bring pancakes and sausage to church to keep kids quiet..or offer them snack after snack at church , on car /airplane rides , doctor appointments, or in any uncomfortable waiting situations- just to keep them quiet. I feel that this teaches kids to mindlessly eat when they are bored instead of looking for alternative ideas to pass time. There is nothing wrong with setting up a snack or lunch time when you are having kids over for a play date…but, set up a designated eating time instead of just setting up food and letting them grab and go at leisure ..I’m not trying to be judgmental -i know these times are HARD and the food does HELP and doing these things will make it harder on YOU , because you will have to help them pass time , BUT, it is worth it. You are teaching them valuable things by doing this.
- This last point is THE MOST important one!!! YOUR ATTITUDE towards food / meals should always be positive. Don’t act exasperated if you have been struggling with getting your kid to eat..I have seen Moms who love their kids and are so worried about them eating that you can feel their desperation at meal times…they are offering the kid food after food and telling them one more bite or bribing them to finish their vegetables etc. Try to be nonchalant about it.Ho-Hum attitude is best. “Hey I see that you aren’t eating, are you not hungry? You don’t have to eat. We can save that for later” . ” “Hey , just reminding you that you haven’t had a nutritious meal yet today , and I see you in the pantry looking for a snack”. Talk about new recipes or vegetables you are going to try. If you are trying to make better food choices, talk to them about it-like, “hey , I am going to try to limit my sodas to once a day, let’s do that with your juice too. We are all going to work on this together”. DO NOT get into a back and forth war with your kid arguing over eating food. This should be a time that you stay calm, smile, remind them they don’t have to eat if they don’t feel hungry, but this is what is for supper, they are welcome to have it later, no big deal. Pick the food up and smile and let them know to come tell you when they are hungry again. When they do, give them the same food. Many of Brussels sprouts have been eaten at my house this way.? If you are anxious about your kid starving, they WILL pick up on this. (Unless your kid has a medical illness or feeding issue) YOUR KID WILL NOT STARVE TO DEATH IN A FIRST WORLD COUNTRY. Remind your self of that. Kids will eat mud if they are truly starving.
I hope these tips can help you and your family on your way to more nutritious eating!!!
A few foods that my kids like that I have made “differently” for them :
- Carrot /white potato/sweet potato “fries”
- Carrot /sweet potato “casserole” (mashed then add almond milk, vanilla, honey or stevia, almond or peanut butter and stir”
- zucchini brownies (www.fastpaleo.com is our fave recipe for that !)
- Tuna or salmon cakes made with sweet potatoes
- BBQ shredded chicken
- meatballs of all kinds
- asian Brussels sprouts
- pan seared green beans
- diced mangos on grilled fish
- tuna fish salad
- bananas & apples with peanut butter ..can make fun shapes /designs.
- beans with sausage
- fruit + yogurt
If you have any questions or want an idea on how to prepare a specific meat or vegetable , ask me!!!! I hope that you can find a way to teach your kids about healthy foods / living from a young age …you won’t regret it!!!