This week I’d like to offer up another guest blog from our own Laura Tricarico, who among other things is a CrossFitter and a Nutritional Therapist. Halloween is just behind us now, and that means we all have bags full of candy sitting around. As the candy supply starts to wane, it would be a great time to think again about how to best feed our kids and set them up for eating success in the future. Please enjoy this informative and motivating article from Laura!
Make it a Family Affair
Creating a healthy lifestyle as a family when children are young can build long term habits that will follow your children through their lives, but we all KNOW that by now. No parent sets out wanting their children begging for treats or negotiating with dessert. Unfortunately, parenting doesn’t come with a guide and over time you may find your kids battling their own sugar dragon or having other less than ideal habits. So what do you do? How do you build healthy and happy kids who have positive – relationships with food? Answer: with immense amount of patience and consistency! Below are a few tips to begin the transition and suggestions for getting the entire family on board while hopefully resisting all-out meltdowns!
GIVE THEM TIME: Change takes effort and time especially for the littles. Make small shifts and resist changing all their comforts at once. Start by making one healthy switch a day and slowly alter their expectations at mealtimes. Also keep in mind, it takes 10-12 times for a child to truly determine a dislike to a new food so give them plenty of opportunities to try new foods before you determine they don’t like it.
GIVE THEM CHOICES: Children love exercising their independence and autonomy. Allow them to make their own healthy choices by giving them two parent-approved options to choose from. For example, offer apple slices with peanut butter or carrots with guacamole. Both are great snack ideas, but they will feel empowered by the choice. Win-win!
GET THEM INVOLVED: Try taking them to the grocery story with you and letting them pick two or three produce items to try during the week. Have them help you prepare the purchased foods to eat. Let them toss veggies with healthy oils and spices (who doesn’t love getting messy) or chop veggies or fruits using kid appropriate knives. Not only will they be proud of their contribution, but you are spending time together and sharing responsibilities. Plus you are showing them a life long skill of preparing food – their future spouse will thank you!
LEAD BY EXAMPLE: Mommy and daddy eating fresh and healthy food goes a long way in the impressionable eyes of kids. Also, show them how being healthy is fun by choosing to be active together or going outside. Kids are incredibly observant and will mimic what they see from their role model – you!
KEEP IT COLORFUL: A plate full of vibrant colors is incredibly appealing. Remember that we have five senses and that how food looks can be just as important as how food tastes. We eat with our eyes first!
DON’T OVERCOOK: Cooking foods appropriately will ensure ideal texture and flavors. Overcooked veggies become mushy and bland and leave a lot to be desired. Make sure you add healthy fats to vegetables and plenty of spices to bring out their flavor. My favorite way to prepare vegetables is to toss with avocado or coconut oil and sea salt and roast at 425 degrees on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 25-30 minutes until slightly browned. I haven’t met a vegetable that doesn’t roast well. Super easy cleanup too!
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: Remember that a child’s stomach is about the size of their fist. Small kids = small fists. So make sure you provide appropriate serving sizes to match the size of their belly!
BE CLEAR: Without discussion, kids may interpret the dietary changes as punishment or simply resist based on confusion. Eliminate that path by explaining why you are making changes as a family and how those changes will benefit them.
LAST RESORT – SNEAK ATTACK: If all the above suggestions fail, add healthy ingredients to their favorite foods or find healthier ways to prep your family’s favorite dishes. Blend veggies into sauces, smoothies, or casseroles. They will likely have no clue! Cleaning up your child’s diet may not be easy and may come with a few tears (yours and theirs), but remember the struggle gets easier over time and only if you stay consistent. Stay focused on the end goal of building a healthy body and food relationship. Also, it is much easier to resist giving in to tantrums if those offending foods aren’t in the house. Bottom line – as the parent, you control what goes into the pantry and fridge. If you don’t want your kids eating it, don’t put it in the grocery cart.