When it comes to eating healthy, the number one concern I hear from moms is they can’t get their kids on board to eat the healthy food they prepare. I am here to tell you… worry no more! I have some great tips to get your kids to start eating a little healthier and ease your troubled mind!
Now, I want to be clear in that my kids are AWESOME eaters and always have been. They would literally choose broccoli and carrots over a candy bar any day! This is partly because I have always offered healthy choices, junk food is just not an option. I have also always cooked from scratch and that is all they have known, and while I do understand this is not the norm, (my friends often laugh and call me Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker) it is also in part because they have always had a choice.
Sure, this goes against all rules of mommy-hood, right? I think when kids understand what they are eating and have a choice in whether or not they eat something, they will often lean toward the better option. Not always, if you put mac-n-cheese in front of my kids, they will definitely take you up on it! So I am going to give you my 5 best tips for getting my kids (and daycare kids!) to eat healthier versions of their favorite foods!
1) Figure out what they like!
If you try to get your kids to eat steamed broccoli, grilled fish and quinoa when they are used to eating Hamburger Helper… it might not go over very well! But, if you kids like Hamburger Helper, make it! Just make it from scratch. Here’s what I mean: Cook some pasta, brown up some hamburger with garlic, onion, salt and pepper. When it is done browning, add a little flour to coat the meat and drippings or drain the meat first and add a good quality fat. (olive oil, refined coconut oil, etc.) Keep it on the heat until the meat is coated with the flour. (I do not recommend whole wheat flower, I have never had luck making a sauce with it, the consistency and appearance is just not pretty!) Once the flower is absorbed, add a little milk and a little stock/broth until you have the desired amount of “sauce”. (Make sure it will be enough to coat the noodles when they are added!) simmer that mixture for a few minutes and the sauce will start to thicken. Add a small amount of cheese for the flavor and some more salt and pepper, maybe even a splash of liquid aminos, and any other seasoning you want to use to flavor it. Add your noodles and in less than 20 minutes, you have a home made “Hamburger Helper” with out all the extra preservatives, salt, flavorings and who-knows what else! For extra nutrition, you could add some home made green powder, diced onion, fresh garlic, chopped up carrots, broccoli, or any chopped fresh greens you have! (I wouldn’t do all of them at the same time if you are just trying to transition!) It is easy to re-create their favorites if you have a few staples in the house and a basic knowledge of flavors.
2) Take them to the grocery store with you!
When the kids get involved, they have fun! When you are in the grocery store, let them look at the labels you are reading and explain to them what it means. When you are in the produce section, let them hold the tomatoes or pick out the prettiest color vegetable they can find. Teach them about the foods they find and then let them help you find a fun recipe to try. You can find some really fun recipes on Pinterest and then give them a list for the store: we need carrots, onions, chard, tomatoes, etc. Let the kids find the ingredients and check them off the list! Want help with meal planning? Check out the link below!!
3) Teach them the difference between healthy and junk food!
Fruit snacks are NOT fruit, does your child know this? Look at the label, are strawberries the first ingredient? How many types of sugar do they use to make this deceiving treat? What is pictured on the box? Is it a cute monkey hanging from a banana tree or a cartoon character they know eating a handful of grapes? (random thoughts, but you know what I mean) Unfortunately, food companies market junk food to kids and then pay to have it placed on the shelf at the store so it is right at your child’s eye level. This is not a coincidence, they know that if Dora is on a box of cereal, you kid will NEED to have it! My daughter will walk through the store with me and say things like “Mom, see how Lightening McQueen is smiling at me on this box, you know they do that so little boys want to buy it, right!?” (sassy little thing she is!) I do correct her when she is rude, but when she is right, I just try to keep from giggling!
Marketing is a BIG deal and people get paid big bucks to make sure these products are on the radar of our littles. So be sure to teach your kids that just because something has a cool package, doesn’t mean that you need to buy it. Learn to make your own snacks and (you guessed it) let the kids help you make it! For instance, my kids will go through our pantry and find dried fruits and nuts and make their own trail mix for school snack. They love to help me in the garden so they will pick peas or green beans, wash them and snack on it all afternoon. Another thing we did this year is dehydrate strawberries. They picked them, washed them and helped me cut the stems off and slice them. Then they lined them up nicely on the trays for the dehydrator and checked on them every couple hours until they thought they were dried enough to have for a snack! They were so proud of themselves and I was, too!
Right now, our kids are creating the habits they will have for the rest of their lives and if we teach our kids it is OK to make bad habits, they will just continue until they are overweight or worse and they won’t know what to do to reverse it. This is a sad truth that happens everyday, teach your kids the difference in real and junk food, I promise, it is one of the best things you can do for them in the long run.
4) Show them where the food comes from!
Take them to the grocery store, but also take them to a farm! When you are driving down the road, point out things that help them understand where their food comes from. “That truck is hauling milk, that milk came from the cows at a farm just like that one! The farmer grows that crop to feed the cows, and he uses that tractor to plant the seeds that grow that crop! I promise, they will soak that up and start asking questions about other things. Do your kids know that chickens make the eggs you eat for breakfast or that the milk you bought is from the farm just up the road? Also, do your kids know that some of our food comes from 1/2 way around the world? It does! (cool to kids, not to me… just saying!) Look at the labels on your produce at the store, it will sometimes tell you where that food was imported from. Depending on their age, teach them about sustainability and supporting local businesses and farms. My favorite way to teach my kids about food is by growing it! We don’t have a huge garden, but it is big enough to feed our family for most of the summer. The kids are involved in every step of the process, how cool to eat a fresh tomato that you grew from 1 tiny little seed!
If you want your kids to eat healthy, you have to too! You can’t cook them a fresh meal of greens, brown rice and chicken and then scarf down the leftover pizza from last night because you aren’t in the mood for chicken. If you teach your kids about how bad fast food is for your body, don’t have a giant McDonald’s cup in your car and a crumpled up paper bag in the garbage can from your lunch break. If you set a good example, your kids will naturally want to follow in your footsteps. If you set a bad example, your kids will naturally want to follow in your footsteps, too. Like it or not, you are the biggest deciding factor in the habits your kiddos will pick up and keep for the rest of their lives.
How does this relate to Back to School?
When your kids start working on being healthier, encourage them to follow through and bring their creations to school for their lunch and snacks. If they help pick it out it, prepare it and eat it, surely they will want to bring it to school to show their friends! (Let them pick out a cool lunchbox and containers, that is the best part!) Have you looked at the school lunch menu? If not, you need to. Bologna sandwich, cheese pizza, chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes from a box with packaged
salt I mean gravy, it really is atrocious! They offer a salad bar at our elementary now, which is awesome, but not too many kids are going to load up on fresh fruit and veggies when cheese pizza and canned pears are on the menu! In our house the rule is they bring their own lunch from home every day but one. We look at the lunch menu on the weekend or before we go grocery shopping and they pick which day, if any, they will have school lunch.
Many of the products we use for keeping us on track are available on my Amazon store!*
I truly hope these tips help you to start down a healthier course in your house! While you’re here, check out the other posts in my Back to School series! #1 Getting Ready , #2 Safety, and #3 in the series: How We Get Everything Done, Even On a School Night As always, I would love to hear what you think! Comment below and share with your friends and family!