his article was written by me and was first published in Multiplicity Magazine, (Spring, 2013) Issue. Any reproduction of material without the consent of Multiplicity Magazine is a copyright violation.
You may have noticed that feeding your kids can be quite a challenge. From finding time to prepare food to getting them to eat it without a fight, you have your hands full. The following is a list of what I’ve done to get my twin daughters to eat healthy and a few things that some of my readers have done as well!
- Lead by example. This applies for more than just food. If you want your kids to do something then you must set the example. They copy everything you do and say. Replace your bad habits with goods ones. Snack healthy, avoid sugars, and prepare meals consisting of Real Food not processed foods.
- Start from the beginning. If you are just beginning to introduce solid foods then you are in the perfect starting position. Make every moment count. Introduce organic healthy fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and make your own baby food.
- Don’t buy it. If you’ve ever tried to diet, you know what I’m talking about. Easy access to unhealthy food just makes eating healthy harder. Keep it out of your fridge, freezer, and pantry. This applies to fast food restaurants as well. Stay out of them! If your kids have never had a happy meal, they won’t ask for one! I’m proud to say that since I quit unhealthy foods when they were 6 months old, my girls have never been to a fast food restaurant.
- If they haven’t tried it, they won’t ask for it. For example, if they haven’t been given soda and you don’t drink it around them, they won’t want it. Soda has no nutritional benefit to anyone, why train your kid to think it tastes good? Once you get over your need for it you won’t like it either. I’ve been soda free for over 5 years now.
- Keep it positive. They aren’t going to like everything you put in front of them the first time. This starts at 6 months and continues for life. It took me about a year when I was 19 to get myself to start liking bananas and now I could eat them all day. Acquiring a taste for different healthy foods is possible given time and opportunity. Avoid allowing negative comments from anyone at the table. I’ve seen my girls avoid cut peppers (their favorite snack) for a day after another little girl stated that she hated them.
- Get caregivers onboard. I won’t lie to you on this one; this is the most daunting task. Grandparents and other caregivers seem to have this need to give children sugary foods as a demonstration of love. Outlawing this type of behavior doesn’t seem to work for anyone involved. I have instead gone with the ‘less is more’ approach. I’ve explained that giving them too much makes them sick later or alters their behavior. Both results have actually occurred. It has been my experience that once everyone sees how well your children eat and how healthy they are, they will start paying attention to what you are doing.
- They’ll eat when they’re hungry. This method has worked for me and some of my readers. I have heard of children that will essentially go on a hunger strike though. Thankfully that has not been my experience! My girls have heard me say, “I am not a short order cook” several times. One meal is made for everyone. I will accommodate small requests but I do not make one meal for the kids and another for everyone else.
- The kids menu is the devil. It is rare to see healthy food on the kids menu. Grilled cheese, mac and cheese, french fries, and breaded chicken fingers are staples on the menus. None of these things are healthy. I try to order off of the adult portion of the menu and have the meal split between my daughters. You end up spending the same amount of money as you would have for the unhealthy kids menu options. If you absolutely have to order off the kids menu then ask to substitute the fries for steamed veggies, a side salad or fruit (note the shock on the waiter’s face).
- Water water everywhere. One of the many important conversations I’ve had as a mother was when my Naturopathic Doctor told me the girls didn’t have to drink gallons of milk every week or chug bottles of juice. Somewhere along the way I was brainwashed into thinking that they needed excessive amounts of milk and juice to survive. Not true. I don’t regularly purchase juice. I will buy juice boxes for long car rides and pull them out when my husband and I stop to get coffee. I’ll also bring them along to the beach or pool. In those cases they are only allowed one each. Otherwise, day to day life consists of water. As a bonus, water is very easy to clean up when they spill it around the house! I have one daughter who asks for water with lemon at home and at restaurants. Have you ever heard a 5 year old ask a waitress for water with lemon? Priceless moment.
- Get them involved in food preparation. Invite your children into the kitchen. I know, this doesn’t make dinner preparation easier. I don’t do this every day but I do it often. From washing vegetables to stirring sauces, my children are in the kitchen. My theory on this is that if they are invested in the labor involved in preparing the meal, they will be more inclined to eat it.
- Good brainwashing. I’m always telling my girls to eat their healthy foods so they’ll grow big and strong. We ask them to “show us their muscles” after they finish dinner. They think this is hilarious. We identify healthy foods and unhealthy foods and why they are classified that way. I’m amazed at how much they actually do understand and remember.
- Make it easier. Life is crazy if you haven’t already noticed. Make a little extra effort when you have a few minutes to prepare yourself for the crazy times. Bags of trail mix and cut veggies will help you have something to grab and go when you’re short on time. Be prepared. Meal planning is a huge help. When I plan my meals we eat better. It has been 5 years and I haven’t mastered this yet. I’m making progress though!
Healthy eating may seem like a daunting task for those of us who start out with poor eating habits. Believe me when I say it can be done. I personally started out loathing pretty much every vegetable and now I eat them regularly. You can do it and your kids can do it. If they are older and you are starting from scratch, take baby steps. Eliminate or replace the unhealthy foods one by one from your home until they are gone. The fewer sugars you eat the more amazing fruits and vegetables start to taste. I never knew I could love an apple without drenching it with cinnamon and sugar until I changed my habits! Invest in your family’s health, make a change today!
Photo credit: teresaterra