Kids and Food
I have often been asked…”how do you get Bella to eat that?!” Bella has a great appetite and loves to eat…she also loves to eat healthy foods! We talk about eating healthy every day. Every time I feed her something, I talk about why it’s good for her body, what vitamins it has, where it came from, etc. Education is the first step!
Children will eat whatever they have been taught to eat…and also what they see the adults around them eating. I try to only eat foods that I want her to be eating as well. It doesn’t make sense to be chowing down on a candy bar and then turn around and tell your child, “no, you can have it because it’s very bad for you!”.
Now before you all freak out and tell me all about your “picky” child and how they will only eat hot dogs and cookies, please hear me out. Who is giving them the hot dogs and cookies? If the hot dogs and cookies were taken away, they might cry and scream and pout…but eventually they will get hungry…at which time you can start to offer healthier alternatives. Take away the junk and they will have the need to develop a taste for better food. I’ve read that it takes between 3-10 days for our taste buds to “re-program” themselves. Pretty soon, your child will actually be asking for healthy food! I have seen this first hand in our family. If I have the junk around, Bella will ask for it non-stop, but as soon as it is gone…she forgets about it. (Side note: I would warn about labeling your child. The more they hear you say they are a “picky eater”…they more they will internalize that and pretty soon, they truly ARE picky.)
Let’s start at the beginning. We skipped the rice cereal phase completely. Why? Many reasons. There is no “medical” reason to feed a baby cereal at the “magic” age of 6 months. Studies are actually showing that grains are not the best first food for a baby to digest. Plus, it’s setting them up for a lifetime love of high carb foods. We decided that it was much wiser to just start feeding Bella the foods that we were eating anyway. Her first food was avocado. Then banana. Then sweet potatoes. And so on. If we were having something chunkier, we just threw it in the blender or food processor and made it into a puree. I never made any “special” baby food to freeze and feed her later. She has always eaten what we are eating for any given meal. And she still eats what we eat. We go through “phases” … but for the most part we try to limit our dairy intake and we do not eat any meat. We are cutting back on traditional breads and now if we do decide to eat it, we will eat a sprouted bread such as Ezekiel sprouted breads. They also make a great sprouted english muffin.
If you aren’t used to feeding your children healthy foods, it might be hard to know where to start. I wanted to give you some ideas by sharing our typical day of meals/snacks.
Today, Bella ate:
2 farm fresh local eggs cooked in olive oil
Black mission figs
Mango (yes, she ate the whole thing! She loves them.)
Blueberry skewers (blueberries on toothpicks)
Cucumber sticks (peeled cucumber cut into long sticks)
Smoothie made of frozen strawberries, fresh pears, banana, almond milk, and hemp seeds.
Fudge ball (raw almond butter/dates/cocoa)
Other food ideas:
Flax crackers (pre-made or homemade) and hummus
Organic corn chips and salsa/hummus
Any organic dried fruit
Avocado chunks drizzled with lemon juice
Ants on a Log (celery with raw almond butter/raisins)
Fruit…cut up and served in fun ways (on a toothpick, in the shape of a butterfly, etc)
“Freeze dried” Fruits and Veggies
Air popped popcorn
Raw almond butter and banana on sprouted bread
Sprouted english muffin cut into pieces drizzled with agave nectar
Apple “Cereal”: Small apple pieces drizzled with almond milk and cinnamon in a bowl
Oatmeal (either raw or cooked) with raisins, cinnamon, flax seeds, and agave nectar
Banana “Cake”: mashed banana in the shape of a circle topped with fresh blueberries
Try a new fruit during each trip to the store. Let your child pick it out so they are excited about it!
My philosophy about food and children…is that children should never be “made” to eat something. Food should never be used as a bribe, reward, or as a manipulative tool (i.e. “if you don’t eat that, you are going straight to bed!” or “if you stop crying, I’ll give you some candy!”). That is just setting them up for a lifetime of food related emotional issues. If a child is hungry, they should be offered a healthy snack or meal, regardless of what time it is. If Bella comes to me 1/2 hour before supper and asks to eat, I don’t tell her no…I give her a healthy snack. If she happens to be less hungry for her supper, then we just eat less at supper. I do feel that it’s important for children to be involved in the family meal time even if they aren’t hungry right then. It helps them learn that meal time is a time for more than just eating, but family connection/conversation as well. Conflicts over food seem to dominate many child/parent relationships, but food doesn’t have to be a battle. It can and should be a joyful thing…bringing families together, not tearing them apart with arguments. There should be boundaries set, but there also needs to be respect.
I’m always trying to come up with new ways to help make eating healthy a fun activity. I will sometimes change the names of food…instead of green lemonade, I will call it “Super Power Ballerina Drink”. Instead of telling her that there are hemp seeds in her smoothie, I just explain that we are putting in some extra protein and omega-3 oils to make her healthy and strong. Certain words will immediately turn a child off to a food…and I’m sure we all know what our child’s triggers are! 🙂 So make it fun. And don’t forget the treats.
While we do eat healthy foods the majority of the time, I also love to give her treats. For the last few days our treats have been the fudge balls (even though I don’t like to call them that because they truly are not “bad” for her). Sometimes we have a mini-bag of Sunspire Drops around…and she will get 2-3 as a treat. That tiny bag will last a couple of weeks! A raw food bar is considered a “treat”. And if we’re going all out, we might get some soy or rice milk ice cream. If we are out of the house, we might get ice cream or pizza as a treat, but Bella knows that it’s a TREAT, and not an every day thing.
What about the little things that you’ve let “slip” and now they’ve become a habit? We have several of these bad habits that over time she has come to expect. Mints at restaurants. She LOVES them. However, they are red and white. Red = Red #40. Can’t have that. 🙂 Instead, be prepared ahead of time. Stock up on little organic candies or suckers and when she sees the mint…whip out the healthier alternative. Yummy Earth is our favorite brand. (Hint: Buying them in bulk is WAY cheaper). This works well at the bank and grocery store too…when they practically force feed your child bad food (it’s one of my pet peeves when they ask if my child can have a sucker WHILE they are handing it to her).
I am a huge believer in organic foods for children. Their bodies are developing SO FAST and cells are multiplying and growing at an alarming rate. If you are giving them genetically foods coated in pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides that mess with the cell production…it’s not good. Their little bodies can’t handle the level of toxins like an adult can. So even if you don’t feel that you can afford organic for yourself, please consider feeding your children organic food.
There is a fabulous blog that I just discovered called Raw Baby Alex. It details a family’s journey into raw foods with their child. They share what he eats nearly every day and it’s a great inspiration. You don’t have to be a raw foodist to enjoy this blog…it will encourage you to find healthy choices for your child. Vive Le Vegan is a great cookbook for families as well.
As with anything, do the best you can with the resources you have. When you know better, you can do better 🙂 Take small steps towards improving your family’s diet and you will notice the changes in their behavior and their health. I promise. Start today…and don’t be discouraged! YOU are the one who can make this change for your child. YOU are the one who can set him/her up for a lifetime of health.
Entry filed under: Kids and Food.