Eating healthy is kind of the talk of the town these days. But what about when it comes to the kids? Are they eager to dive into a raw kale salad? Do you hear your little ones declaring, “Hey! You know what, I think we should ease up on the sugar.”
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Kids are kids. They are amazing and fun and witty and moody and uncensored and picky and above all, they like what they like. You want your kids to eat the meals they need to grow and to thrive and to be healthy people, because what’s more important than that? Nothing.
Still, in the end, sometimes concession happens and they get fed what they will eat, because, hey, we all only have so much energy. But as we learn with each passing day, good nutrition is the cornerstone of good health. You simply can’t have one without the other – what we put into our bodies becomes our bodies. That kale is packed with magnesium and calcium, exactly what those growing bones need.
What’s a busy mom with kids who only want to eat mac and cheese to do?!
I’ve once again teamed up with my girls Katie and Megan from Prescribe Nutrition and asked them to stop by and bestow some of their nutritional wisdom on us. Here are their top 9 tips for raising kids who willingly eat healthy!
So what’s the secret to getting kids to eat healthier long-term? There has got to be something more effective than “you can’t have dessert until you finish your broccoli,” right? Right. The real, long-term, sustainable solution is to have kids that want to eat healthy. Kids that truly understand what’s going on with food and their body every time they eat. Kids that know plants should be the anchor of all meals.
It is possible to have a child that makes sure you put the cauliflower in the shopping cart. You simply need to support them in their path to health, give it time and watch them grow like little plants themselves.
TOP TIPS FOR BUILDING YOUR VERY OWN HEALTH NUT
1. Build Your Own Garden
This is our very first and most important tip because it truly starts from the ground up. Now this does not mean you have to build a raised bed in your backyard or find community garden space (but oh so cool if you can). What it does mean is to find a way to show your kids where food comes from.
This can be as simple as herbs potted in your kitchen, perhaps working your way from basil to tomatoes. Another route: if there isn’t one already, talk to your school about getting a garden going. This picture is from a local pre-school that puts a big emphasis on the art of gardening. The kids go nuts for it.
You can recite endless health facts to your kids, but nothing will come close to resonating as much as them harvesting their very own lettuce leaves or picking their own lemon. Guide their little hands in planting the seeds and picking the product and talk to them about the importance of living food. Our favorite mantra: the more alive your food is, the more alive you are. We promise if you make spinach pesto out of spinach they help pick, they’re probably going to eat it.
2. Give Them Ownership
Put them in charge. This is something that you can put into practice each day. Every time you grocery shop, have them be responsible for washing the veggies and fruit. Delegate some tasks: they wash, you chop, they store in containers.
Have your kids play a role in prepping foods and building a refrigerator with healthy options. When choosing recipes for meals that week or even dinner that night, get them involved. Tell them they’re in charge of choosing the veggies.
Whatever they choose, let them know why that food is so awesome for their health (and this is where Google becomes your friend).
3. The Rainbow Challenge
This is fun and, frankly, good practice for the big kids too. Why? The saying ‘eat your rainbow’ is actually pretty smart advice. You can be confident you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need if you focus on eating a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Brightly colored plants are certain to be stocked with antioxidants which will support everything from a strong immune system to great vision. So what’s the challenge? Take them to the store and tell them they have to build a rainbow from their favorite foods – and they can’t leave the produce section!
When you get home, prep and dice food as necessary and have them build a rainbow on their plate – a rainbow they’ll eat. Hate tomatoes but love raspberries? There’s your red. Broccoli is their enemy but cucumber is their fave? There’s your green. This is fun and an activity they’ll want to do again.
*Bonus points for collecting the most stickers off of produce to build their rainbow clouds.
4. Get Them in the Kitchen
Going to a dinner or a birthday and you need to bring something? Make it a priority to get the kids in the kitchen. Even if you’re making something very specific and in a rush, it can be as simple as having the kids hit “pulse” on the processor to make their eyes grow wide. Having them involved makes them feel proud of the food; even more so if they can give the final product to their dad, friend or teacher.
If you’re baking, let them stir. If making a salad, wash their hands and have them dig into the veggies to toss. The tactical element of cooking and baking is not only an education process, it’s a process that gets ingrained into the memory. A memory that tells them you don’t have to buy delicious food – you can make it. The truth is anything that they make, they will eat; even if it’s a truly bizarre concoction.
OTHER FAVORITE ACTIVITIES
5. Let it rot: This may not be a favorite for the parents, but it shows kids the reality of food that’s living vs food that’s not. Put packaged food on the counter alongside fresh food. Tell them that the food that goes bad first is actually the best for our body, because it lives and dies. Your very own at home science experiment.
6. Blindfolding: Show kids the versatility of food. One of our favorites is to take a veggie and eat it raw, eat it cooked, and then eat it sweet. Prove to them the amazing things you can do with healthy food. Our favorite? Raw zucchini, sauteed zucchini, and zucchini chocolate muffins.
7. Apple taste testing: Set out all varieties of apples, sliced, and served alongside pairings: nut or seed butter, honey, grass fed cheese, cinnamon, etc. Let them decide what flavors they like most.
8. Books: Next time you go to the library, give them a challenge to find their favorite book on food. There are so many wonderful and beautiful books out there that educate all about fruits and veggies.
9. The last and most important tip for building your own health nut? In the end, kids will eat what you eat. We must be the example we set for our younger generation. If we show that we feel our best when we eat our best, we are creating a home that sets the stage for long term awareness.
Thanks so much to Megan and Katie for stopping by and sharing with us today. As the mama of two kiddos who tend to eat little more than fruit and cheese, I can use all the help I can get!
We’re making progress though, C and I have really been talking a lot lately about how we get the good things our bodies need (protien, vitamens, and nutrients) from our food and he’s really getting into the science of it all. “What does this give my body mommy?” is a regular dinner time game these days!
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