Almost everyone who meets my daughter, gets mesmerized by the way she eats her fruits and veggies. I will never forget, when she was a little over a year old, and she knew just enough words to tell us what she wanted. One day we had a couple of our friends over for dinner. As always the bowl of salad was in the middle. She kept pointing at one of our friends and called him “Amoo” meaning Uncle, “Akoo” what she used to call Avocado and we had to separate all the avocados and give to her. Yes, avocado was one of her favorite ingredients in a salad and to this day, I have to convince her to eat her main food before eating her salad. The other day, I made fish and some roasted veggies, she was so excited about seeing the asparagus, that she could not wait until I serve the food and she had to have one.
So how did I do it? And what you can do to help your kids choose healthy foods?
It is never too early to start feeding your kids healthy meals. Also, they will not miss anything, if you wait to give them all those salty, sugary, highly processed treats.
I literally started this journey the day I found out I am pregnant. I chose not to listen to those who told me, just eat whatever you crave for. I would satisfy my cravings, but with healthier options. If I was craving hamburger and fries, instead of sending my husband to a fast food place to get me just that, we would make our own burger with 100% grass fed beef on a gluten free bun and roasted veggies. This way of eating continued throughout my entire pregnancy. If I wanted sweets, I would just eat a banana.
I was lucky enough to have an OB team, who highly recommended breast feeding and had lactation consultants right at the hospital and available for me day and night. When I had issues with lactating, my nurse and my lactation consultant kept encouraging me to try and ensured me that nothing will happen. Thanks for their advice, I was able to exclusively breastfeed my daughter for the first 4 months, and after starting her on solids, still breast milk was her only source of fluid beside water until she was a year and half. Unfortunately, I have heard of so many hospitals and providers, who are too quick at offering formulas which are loaded with sugar to babies.
After she started solids, we stuck to healthy, whole fruits and veggies that I would prepare at home. It is good to mention that I was working full time at the time, so I had to prioritize. We never fed her with jar foods.
Have healthy foods available
Some might call me a boring Mom, and I will take that as a compliment. I prefer to be boring in the food department than raising a kid, who will have health issues later on in her life due to her unhealthy diet.
We talked about getting your pantry cleaned from junk food, when we covered clean eating. If you look in my pantry, you will not find any sorts of candies, sweets or junk food. I have a pack of whole grain, Organic, non GMO tortilla chips, which My daughter gets to have just a few, after she eats her dinner. Organic cheddar crackers and fruit rolls, that we take with us whenever we are going on a hike or somewhere that we can’t carry fresh fruits with us. Same applied to my fridge and refrigerator (just whole natural foods)
Always have fresh fruits and healthy snacks (such as raw nuts) available. It is important to give your kid option, but not too many because it will make them more confused. When my daughter is looking for a snack, and she does not know what she wants. I give her two options which are usually some sort of fruit and nuts, this way she feels in power to choose what she wants to eat. Both options are healthy and she does not get confused with too many options. The funny thing is that, when she wants to ask me for something, she tells me “Mommy you have two options,….”
To this day, she has not been to McDonald or any other fast food places. 90% of the time we cook at home and when travelling or eating out, we pick healthy restaurants over other options. Her favorite food, like all the other kids, is Mac and cheese and chicken tenders, so we make sure to go to a restaurant that offers real Mac and cheese not out of the box and chicken tenders made with Organic no hormone added chicken breast, nothing fake. Also, she loves having chicken and broccoli in her Mac and cheese.
Keep treats for special occasions
Treats should be for special occasions, not all day every day. Also, don’t hurry in introducing treats to your kids, and when you do, offer them a small amount.
My daughter, now 4 years old, was not introduced to ice cream, until probably a year ago and that is for only special occasions, maybe once or twice a month. Even then, she would share a small (one scoop) ice cream with me and daddy.
Which kid doesn’t like candy or chips? Whenever we go to someone’s house, where they have candy and chips on their table, that is all she wants to eat, so I let her have a piece of candy and a few chips, and she is usually satisfied with that.
Recognize and encourage them to make healthy choices and be a role model
Recognize: Every time your kid chooses to eat a piece of fruit or eats his/her veggies, recognize them and tell them that it was a smart choice.
Encourage: when going grocery shopping with them, ask them and help them to pick their favorite fruit or veggie. If they ask for something that is not healthy, help them to pick a more healthier option by explaining to them the reason. If my daughter wants to buy candy, chocolate or chips, which does not happen very often, I guide her towards dark chocolate (instead of milk chocolate and candy), or whole grain or veggie chips like kale chips (instead of potato chips) and explain to her why they are better choices. And yes, she likes dark chocolate, she does not know the difference yet.
Be a role model: you can’t raise a healthy eating child, if all you eat is junk food. Children look at their parents to see what they eat and what is their attitude toward a particular food, long before they start looking at their peers. If you need to start eating healthy, you can find a step by step guide in my clean eating series (1, 2, 3).
Make sure everyone is on the same page
Last but not least, make sure everyone, who takes care of your child is on the same page as you. You won’t be able to raise a healthy eater if you offer your child fruit and daddy offers candy. We do not have any family close by, so I think our job is much easier, when it comes to raising a healthy eater. I have seen so many parents who are struggling with getting their kids to eat healthy, just because when they are with the grandparents, aunty or uncle they get to eat whatever they want and mostly junk food. Make sure to talk and set some ground rules about what and what not your kid should be offered to eat, to all who might be with your child.
You are the one who raises your kid, so take the responsibility over feeding them with healthy foods. Most kids naturally will get gravitated towards junk foods like candies, chips, cracker, it is your job to help introducing to them natural whole foods. And if you have a real picky eater on your hand, talk to a specialist, before giving up and letting your kids eat junk food all the time.
As always, let me know if you have any question or concern.
Stay happy and healthy