Create Healthy Eating Habits for Your Child
Many years ago I took my daughters, ages 5, 3, and 3 to a birthday party at a small local amusement park. These sorts of places really know how to take your money even after you’ve spent a fortune on admission. There is no outside food allowed; forcing people to purchase over-priced, processed food products to satisfy their hunger pangs. Unfortunately I was not pardoned from the shackles of amusement park greed, as I purchased 3 containers of “mac and cheese,” ($7 each), for my girls and for myself, a green salad (roughly $12). Take note of the difference in price for a salad, versus the cost of their pasta smothered in some thick orange viscous substance that they’ve named cheese. Clearly they discourage making a healthier food choice over the fake, mal-nutrient filler option. I digress. As I gave my girls their “lunch”, they each took one bite and pushed it aside saying it was awful. They then proceeded to fight over my salad. Another $36, and 3 salads later, we finished lunch. This wasn’t surprising to me. However it definitely had the other parents asking how I was able to get my children to prefer salad instead of the “mac and cheese” that all the other kids ate.
Start At The Grocery Store
Given parents do the food shopping and meal planning, not the toddlers, it's up to you to make sound choices. The best way to start on a healthy eating plan is knowing what to put in your grocery cart. It's really not that difficult. If you don’t buy it, kids can’t eat it. Fill your cart with fresh, healthy foods that are found on the perimeter of the store layout. Get local fruits and vegetables and meat if your family eats it. Some vegetables have very little nutritional value and are mostly water, such as celery. So find the produce that packs a wallop for nutrition. Another author, 'Scaler,' shared some great information in his mouth-watering article on the kiwi fruit: Include the Kiwi Fruit ino your healthy diet! It also helps tremendously to have a shopping list. You won't over-buy or waste money on unnecessary items.
A Few Suggestions That Might Help
Choose canned tomatoes instead of pasta sauce. Compare labels and you’ll understand why I suggest it. When purchasing peanut butter, get the kind without sugar. There really is peanut butter made from just peanuts. What a concept! For the little tykes that are just starting on solids, you can make your own “baby food”. It’s more cost-effective, healthier and quite simple. For example, a yam that sells for $.69/lb., can feed your baby for several feedings. Simply rinse the yam; puncture it in several places with a fork; wrap tightly in aluminum foil; and bake. When it’s finished, it’s very soft and can be easily scooped out of the skin with a spoon. Mash it up by hand or press through a food grinder. If it’s too thick, simply add water. This is so much better than the canned or jarred baby food that is filled with preservatives and sugar. Speaking of sugar, stay away from it. It’s addictive, poisonous and leads to several health problems…another article I will be writing soon. Again, if you don’t buy it, your kid can’t eat it...and neither will you.
Discipline And Consistency Are Key
This obviously starts at home, by the parents. I don’t mean parents need to discipline their children into eating healthy. I mean it’s the parents’ responsibilities to be self-disciplined and consistent. If you don’t want your children to veg out in a television-induced coma, turn the tv off. If you want to give your child oatmeal for breakfast, don’t get the sweetened, flavored single serving packs. Make it on the stove with water in a pot. Use the steel-cut or rolled baby oat variety. Yes, it’s more time-consuming. But anything of value takes time. Hence, “fast food” is a nutrient deficient wasteland. And oatmeal can be made the night before if you’re short on time. Simply heat and add more water to freshen it up in the morning. If you feel the need to sweeten the oatmeal, mash a ripe banana and mix it in. I can’t emphasize enough to stay away from the refined sugar. Vegetables…here comes the need for parental discipline. If you want your children to eat red kale, serve the entire family red kale with dinner. Don’t get into a habit of making something special for the “picky eater” because he won’t eat vegetables. He will eat vegetables if you only serve him vegetables! If he eats everything but the vegetables, serve him only the same vegetables at every meal until he eats them. He will not starve! But you have to eat the vegetables with him before you enjoy your steak. He’ll see that if he eats his yummy kale, then he can move on to other things as well. If you give in to his "picky eater" antics, you've just taught him a very useful strategy...for everything he wants. Kids are smart. This may seem harsh, but think about it another way. In other cultures outside the United States, children are raised eating raw fish, hot chili peppers, and bugs as a delicacy. How is it possible? Because that’s what the parents and family eat. It’s their culture. It’s what they know. Unfortunately our culture has become lazy and is always looking for the easy way out. Thus packaged and fast food is prevalent. So discipline yourself and be consistent. If you take the time on the front end, you’ll be thankful later when your kid is asking for salad instead of mac and cheese.
A Few Ideas for Healthy Kid Snacks
- Plain Greek Yogurt with a mashed banana and raw almonds
- Brown Rice with sesame oil and a pack of dried seaweed to make “sushi”
- Carrots and Hummus
- Carrots or apples with MaraNatha Peanut Butter with a Hint of Sea Salt
- Halved cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella with chopped basil sprinkled with olive oil and salt and pepper.
- Medjool Dates stuffed with goat cheese
- Homemade popcorn (not microwave popcorn) instead of chips
- Fresh fruits and veggies
- Plenty of water. Nobody needs juice!
But the most important thing to remember: they can’t eat it if it’s not in the house! If you start your kids off this way, they don’t know any different.