As a parent, I’ve discovered that children and candy go “hand-in-hand”, in the eyes of most. Whether it’s juice, doughnuts, bagels, ice cream, we just want to spoil our darling children with treats. Think of the old cliche, “like a kid in a candy shop!”
Well, I do still like to give my son treats–but usually, they’re homemade, with better ingredients and lots of love! I don’t think he enjoys them any less.
I’ve always known that someday as a parent, I’d want to show my child how to love and care for his/her body, and treat it with respect. My own experiences combined with some things I heard along the way have really stuck with me…
Model Through Self Care
Our children do as we do. They see how we treat ourselves and that’s where their health and self-care standards begin. If you’re over eating, under eating, being incredibly picky/selective…not eating, they see it. If you’re distracted, reading emails, constantly checking your phone (even while you’re eating), this gets noticed too.
So many of us live chaotic lives. We know nothing else. Eating on the fly is the new normal for most of us.
Our bodies (and their little bodies) need more attention, love, and self-care than than we give them. Especially because we are leading such stressful, busy lives. There’s never been a greater need for good nutrition.
Simply think ahead prepare your own food. Food for thought, it takes 5-10 minutes to wait in a drive through line and it also takes 5-10 minutes OR LESS to make a lunch. The difference is in the thinking ahead.
Everyone Eats the Same Thing at The Same Time
There is a lost art and it’s called “eating as a family”. Eating with family is one of the great pleasures in life–especially if there is good food and wine involved (in my opinion anyway!). It’s a time where everyone gets to look at each other, face-to-face, to hear and be heard.
Revive this lost art in your family, even if it’s just once per week. It’s truly quality family time (and if you can do no screens of any kind, even better!). Remember mom and dad, we model the behavior so put your phone away too!
Allow Your Child to Help With Shopping, Gardening and Food Preparation
In the book, “You Are Your Child’s First Teacher” Rahima Baldwin really emphasizes that many of us moms feel as though we have to spend our days entertaining our children. What she recommends is turning the TV off and getting busy with chores and allowing your child to help. I love this notion. At four, he’s already great at helping with the laundry!
Kids like to feel empowered, like they have a say too. If it makes him excited to pick out the cantaloupe, what the heck, I let him pick it out. It’s no coincidence, then when he asks for it first thing every morning.
The same holds true with the garden..and kitchen. We made him a little learning tower and he still uses it to this day.
Kids like to feel empowered, like they have a say too. Why not give them some choices to be excited about trying?
Don’t Be Afraid To Venture Away From The Kids Menu & Kid Food In General
I’ll never forget, one night when I was serving tables in an Irish Pub, a family came in with a four year old and they declined the kid’s menu. What was their daughter’s food choice? The Ahi Tuna ceviche prepared Medium Rare.
I was more than a little thrown off that a four year old had such refined food tastes, but at the same time, I was rather impressed. She ate every bite and was extremely excited about it! It just proved to me that maybe we do pigeon hole kids a little bit by only and always offering the kids menu.
Our kids are picky eaters because of the limited choices we offer them/expose them to. Don’t hesitate to say no to flashy movie characters on cereal and snack boxes, either. You are the parent. You make the rules.
Another idea I like to do is give my kiddo stickers on his little reward chart (found at the Dollar Tree) for trying new foods. He always has to at least try what I make. Usually, he likes it.
If you really wanna kick it up…
Feed your children:
-Homemade Broth, nothing is so beautiful, so nutrient dense, and so easy to digest.
-Organ Meats, very nutrient dense– try this Bacon Beef Liver Pate! Raving reviews on it.
–Fermented Foods (like homemade pickles or fermented carrots), The good thing about fermenting, it pre-digests the food for you making the nutrients readily available.
-Probiotics If You Don’t Have Fermented Foods – Most of our kids are given a few rounds of antibiotics before they’re even one year of age. Since Antibiotics kill the good gut bugs too–replenish the good guys a few times a year by giving your children probiotics.
–A Multivitamin, most of us need a little extra something. Never hurts throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
Water, Try it Sometime
Most shutter at the thought of trying to give a child water. Juice makes the child happy, water is boring. I have had people look at me as though I am depriving my son by only offering him water (“Doesn’t he want juice instead?” they say with a crinkled up nose).
But in spite of common belief, children are very capable of liking the satisfying feeling of drinking water. The problem is that we never offer it to them. In fact, most of us mistake water cravings for food cravings.
The body desperately needs water. Water is essential to life. Juices, teas and sodas (sugar free included) are all diuretics, meaning they send you to the restroom expelling water, dehydrating you. If you never drink water, that’s a problem that can cause a cascade of issues. Believe it or not some juices have more sugar than soda!
These kiddos need hydration, they simply need water. If it’s all you offer, they will drink it.
If you have already started down the juice path, perhaps you can start cutting it with water until it’s eventually water with a dash of juice and then mostly just water naturally infused with pesticide-free fruit or vegetables (like lemons, cucumbers, melons).
Try A More Nutritious Way of Preparing Their Favorite Foods
My son and I love to cook together. Often times, I like the amp up the nutrition by choosing better ingredients (like swapping out oils, flours, and sugars). Next time you want to make something or buy something, get on pintrest and see what sort of alternative recipes you can find for it!
One of my favorite little treats lately is home made gelatin (like Jell-O) but with real gelatin and natural sweeteners (like honey). Or home made ice cream. Or even chicken tenders can be made with better ingredients. Remember, good doesn’t have to mean bland!
Do a Little Food Prep, Make it Accessible
Make sure to have options ready to go before hunger strikes. I like to hull strawberries and slice them into fourths, ready to eat in a Tupperware in the fridge. You can pre-prep melons and many other fruits as well.
My friend Nicolle’s fridge always looks so beautiful. She has eye-catching bowls with fresh-washed fruit waiting to be grabbed. I love this! If it’s at eye-level, kids can see it and go for it easy.
If your child won’t eat/try new things, you have to be patient and continue to model good behavior. Don’t make it a battle. There are some things that Sterling refuses to eat. We usually handle this by being firm with him (i.e. saying “take a bite” and then giving a look).
However, no force feeding. This will give the child negative associations with eating in general.
When I was a camp counselor they had a saying, “You get whatcha get and ya don’t pitch a fit!” This is also another good tactic with kids. Just like with water, they will eat eventually when they get hungry enough. Especially if you aren’t providing supplementary snacks when they don’t eat their meals.
And after you have read this, please don’t have the misconception that we are perfect eaters or that our little guy doesn’t like chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese.
Au contraire, my dear. I just think healthy foods should be the bulk of the diet and sometimes it’s all in how you prepare it. Choose healthy options for your kids and lead by example! 🙂