When I look in to a client’s pantry and see junk food, so many times they say “that is not mine, it’s the kids”. So my question is why are they eating it? I only have just over 2 years of experience at this mom thing however, I have many more years’ experience in health and weight loss. Now with a toddler I have the opportunity to practice what I preach. These are a few things I have learned and hope I can give ideas to other moms out there.
-Start early. I bought a vitamix and started making baby food out of a variety of fruits and vegetables. This not only helped Jacob get nutrition from veggies not found in a jar, such as kale, but also got him accustomed to what real food tasted like. I also stayed consistent day in and day out. I still blend kale every day for him and make a kale juice mixed with red apple, red grapes and milk. He loves his “juice” and gets in his nutrients every day.
-Don’t give up. I have read that it takes several times for a child to like a food. Jacob is not easy to feed and it takes a little extra time for me to distract him to get him to eat his food. But once he starts eating and realizes he likes it, then he chows down. I do take the extra time and energy to cook all of Jacob’s food and feed him during those fussy times. I feel like the time spent now will pay off later and he will be healthier for it.
-Find healthy, yummy food. Healthy food for a toddler does not mean spinach salads and plain salmon. The food I feed Jacob is not necessarily the healthiest food I would eat, but it is much better than fast food. For example, I bake Jacob breaded salmon and tilapia that I would not recommend for an adult trying to lose weight. But for a toddler or child who may not eat fish otherwise, it is a good option. There are so many options for healthier foods than when I was kid. Another idea is adding hummus to rotisserie chicken for a child who does not like chicken.
-Pick your battles. Your child will not like all healthy food, but may like some healthy food. Just like adults, I do not like asparagus but love broccoli and spinach. There are so many different vegetables and ways of preparing them that if they do not like one thing, try something else. There is nothing wrong with disguising chopped up vegetables in a spaghetti or a casserole.
-Don’t reward with food. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. So many parents feel like super parents by making their kids happy when giving them some sort of “treat”. I am not saying you can not have a treat on special occasions, just do not use this as a reward system. Separate the two. Reward with love and doing fun things together.
-Replace junk with healthy snacks. There is no reason for a kid to eat packaged junk food. There is no nutrient value and has no purpose. There are so many healthier options that taste good such as nuts, seeds, yogurt, and fruit. If I let my son have a free cookie when I go to Publix, he will always expect a free cookie when I go to Publix. If I never get him one, he will never know it is an option!
-Let them run, climb and play. Instead of putting your child in the grocery cart, let them help push the cart. Instead of putting them in the stroller, let them walk. I try and get Jacob outside most days of the week to run around and play. When the weather is bad, I let him climb inside.
Like I said, I am only two years in to this adventure so I am sure there is plenty for me to learn, however, this is the goal. I think it will go back to ‘pick your battles’ for many things. It is really about raising a healthy child and getting in the nutrients without the extra garbage. Raising children to have a taste for real food and not processed food. Teaching kids how to cook and appreciate the importance of food. And for the next generation to learn how to properly fuel the body and understand nutrition.