Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tips for Healthy Kids

As Moms, it stresses us out. Are they getting enough calories? Are they suffering from hunger late at night and not telling me? Are they struggling to perform in school due to lack of nutrients?


We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

Here is my number one kiddo. That is, number one picky eater.

She'll let you know when she doesnt like something. A great thing about Essie is that she puts a lot of effort into trying new things, and really gives them a fair chance. Essie loves mangos, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sugar snap peas.

This is my second kiddo. Here he is eating raw celery sticks. This kid will eat almost any health food I put in front of him, as long as number one isnt around to influence him. Samuel's favorites are watermelon, corn, salad, and beets!

This picture is not up-to-date, but I see great things in number three's future. She drinks green smoothies, loves beans, oatmeal, and quinoa, and could chomp on fruit all day.

Here are a few tips I have learned, or am currently in the process of experimenting with on my own kiddos.

1.) Take them to the grocery store or farmer's market with you.

You may get a few glares.

But honestly, if you take a small child to the middle of a huge produce area, and say, "Pick your two very very favoritist fruits out from AAAAALLLLLL these fruits. Your favoritist one that you want in the whole world!"

They will love it. Do the same for their two favorite veggies. And when you take it home they will eat it. Because it was their idea, their creation, and they OWN IT. Children love choices, and they love ownership.

And you will be pleasantly surprised. Often we dont buy certain produce because we ourselves dont like those items, or are not partial to them. Dont limit your kids. They will help you broaden your horizons. Trust me. I never ate beets before Samuel educated me on them!

2.) Keep it simple, stupid.

Okay, so I am not calling anybody names. It's just that every time I hear the words, 'keep it simple,' my brain automatically tacks on the word, 'stupid.'

Sometimes I will be frantically panicking about what to feed my kids for a snack. At which point Samuel just points to a jar of olives or applesauce, or Essie simply wants an orange peeled or a piece of whole wheat toast and honey. But since in my perfectionist mind those things are too simple, they therefore cant possibly be the answer.

Just take a deep breath, and let simplicity be your answer.

3.) Make it available all day, and dont focus so heavily on 3 main meals.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman's idea is that if you make cut fruit and vegetables readily available for constant snacking by your children, then their needs will be met. He suggests creating a big fruit/veggie tray that can be left on the counter all day complete with dips, sauce, crackers, and/or nuts.

Once main meals are prepared and ready, it's okay for your child to eat less of the main meal because they have been snacking on fresh produce all day. It is a child's tendency to prefer this way of eating, and may even be healthier.

4.) Provide healthy vegan treats at home.

Figure out your child's favorite kind of vegan cookie, muffin, and/or granola bar and make it in large batches. Freeze some of them so they are always on hand. Put some of them in a cookie jar for them to dig into after heartily snacking on that fruit/veggie tray on your kitchen counter.

Hopefully you have found a recipe containing whole grains, dried fruits, and minimized oils and no refined sugars.

5.) Turn dinner into a kid's restuarant.

A simple idea is to have a white board in your kitchen. Have your kids either help you write what is on the menu for that day, or decorate pictures for the menu. Dont have a white board? Use your sliding glass door!

6.) Teach them about health.

Children want to know what is healthy for their bodies, just like they want to know about the dangerous affects of cigarrette smoking and drinking alcohol. Teach them plain, simple truth, and they will understand.

UPDATE: Recently my children learned where meat and milk comes from. They watched a movie about compassion towards animals, and it seemed to completely change their attitude about becoming vegan kids. Children don't always comprehend the far-reaching affects of healthy choices now, but they have a special understanding and love for animals that most adults have lost. Essie and Samuel now comment, "Remember? We don't eat animals anymore!"

7.) Have them help you make the meal.

If you have the patience for it. Phew. I know it's tough, especially if you are short on time. But the chances of a kiddo eating something they helped prepare goes way up. Pizza, for example. Now that it is missing cow's milk cheese, they may struggle with the change. But if they make and roll the dough themselves with their own toppings such as tomato sauce, pineapple chunks, spinach, olives, bell peppers, etc, they will most likely eat their own creation. And if they make silly faces on their pizzas, or turn them into pieces of art, all the better!

To come later -- a list of ideas for healthy snacks!

What are some of your ideas for helping kids to eat healthier?

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