Let’s talk about HOW to get your kids to eat healthier to start with…
Of course it is ideal to start introducing whole foods when they start eating around 6-8 months. This sets the stage for a better palate for healthy foods throughout life. But if you didn’t start early, no worries! There are lots of ways to encourage healthy habits RIGHT NOW. Each bite, each meal is an achievement.
• Be a role model. Children are copycats. They want to be like you! If they see you eating healthy and ENJOYING it; they will want to try what you’re having. If they see their family sitting down to a health dinner every night, they will want to feel included.
• Keep offering. It takes up to 15 or more times of seeing/feeling/tasting a food to even try it sometimes.
• Set the Mood: make meal times fun and enjoyable! Set the table, turn the TV off, light candles, have smiles on your faces. Instill the importance of meal time and family time.
• Make it FUN: cut out fun characters, shapes, sizes. Make little games (depending on age of child).
• Disguise: adding healthy foods to foods they already enjoy. Adding spinach to spaghetti sauce, greens powder to smoothies, etc. Chop really tiny or puree. Make banana, nut butter, egg pancakes instead of regular…
• Limit Junk Food: processed food contains flavors and sensory factors designed to be as addictive as possible! If you or your child has eaten these foods; you can’t expect not to desire them. They interfere with your body’s natural metabolism and taste receptors creating addiction and preventing you from enjoying the same satiation from whole foods. Eliminate all junk food from you and your child’s diet.
• Sweeten Them Up: start with sweeter health foods! Sweet potato, squashes, beets, other root veggies or carrots LOADED with yummy organic butter, ghee or coconut oil and some cinnamon. Their taste buds will develop a sensitivity to naturally sweet foods. The coconut oil and cinnamon stabilize blood sugar, support the adrenal & thyroid glands and help with digestion.
• Let them be part of the process: if old enough, allow them to help shop and prepare the food. Baking is really fun for kids too. They then enjoy the PROCESS, feel proud of their accomplishments and want to enjoy the food.
• Give them choices: a lot of nutrition is really psychology! If we give our children choices, they think they are in control. Give them a choice of 2-4 vegetables to choose from. Allow them to choose between 2-3 options for meals. Allow them to choose their fruit while in the store.
• Exposure: expose your child to farming practices, gardening and nurturing animals and plants (if possible depending on where you live). Allow them to get their hands dirty, play with the animals, pick ripe fruits and veggies and collect the hens eggs. When they are part of the process and SEE where real food comes from; they’re more excited about trying it. It’s also important for other kids to see other children being part of the process. It becomes a group connection; a support system.
• Positive Reinforcement: give them incentive! If you eat this for dinner, then you get (do NOT reward with food! Sends mixed messages) to choose what art project we do next (or whatever they value). Preferably try to reward them with something healthy as well, so they can make a healthy, positive association.
• Fill in Nutritional Gaps: adding supplements can be very helpful while transitioning. A good quality fish oil, probiotic, multi-vitamin or vitamin D can be very beneficial.
Essential fatty acid (omega-3 especially) deficiencies are the root cause of many childhood issues, such as ADD, eczema, dry skin, growth retardation, depression, learning disabilities, behavior changes, poor circulation, poor vision, etc.
Make sure they’re sleeping well and long enough! Kids need SO much sleep! Routine is key (even on weekends!).
• Find root cause (if any): often times children have nutrient deficiencies, candida overgrowth, pathogens in their gut, blood sugar imbalances, sensitivities or allergies, which is why they’re unwilling to try foods, are picky or have behavioral/emotional issues. Ask yourself: Does my child have eczema, mood issues, headaches, stomach aches, sick often, ADD? A more in depth evaluation would need to be done to identify a root cause.
• Be Patient: if your child has an established eating habit of junk food; it will take some time to change. That’s okay! Little steps. Start slowly. Aim for ONE new food per week. Be patient and trust the process. Don’t give up! Remain positive for the child. Try not to get frustrated or angry when they refuse. Make process as positive as possible. Discussion of children’s energy and resilience.