I often get asked, from dedicated, loving parents that want the best for their children – how to get their children to want to eat healthy food, once convenient processed food has made its way slowly but surely into their lives?
Maybe you can relate – as new eaters, you only gave your children real fruits and vegetables, pureed and served with love. They got older, birthday parties at school, and snacks away from home started to happen. Afterschool snacks went from sandwiches, hummus and veggies or fruit to consistently something sweet. A treat- Just this once!, turned into a daily habit.
It happens to the best of us.
What to do to change the course:
- Take an honest look at your own diet and habits. Children do as we do, not what we say. If this is hard for you – share your own process with your children.
- Get the junk out of the house. We all have plenty of access to processed junk food outside of the home. Make your kitchen sacred.
- If it’s sweets you crave – start introducing sweet vegetables into your family’s diet daily. Sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, beets, carrots, corn (really a grain – but sweet enough to work), onions, turnips, yams, plantains, etc. They will start to change your taste buds – making food stuffs with added sugar taste too sweet. These sweet foods are also great for your bowels and your spleen and pancreas.
- If it’s salt you crave – know this is your body’s way of asking for minerals. Green leafy vegetables are the best. If your family turns their nose up at the thought of eating green leaves – start with kale chips. I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t like them.
- Water – we often go to food when we are really thirsty. Teach your children to check out the color of their pee. Pale yellow is good. Dark yellow means they need more water!
- Eat at regular intervals. The body loves consistency most. It is much easier to introduce new foods and habits if there is already a structure in place around eating.
- Take your kids to a green market, and let them pick out their dinner. Let them pick a new vegetable to try. Go online to find a recipe if you don’t know what to do with it. Then share your recipes with us.
- Teach your children to read food labels. Even those of us who prefer to eat mostly food that doesn’t come with labels (because it’s fresh), inevitably we have labels to read, so we need to know what to look for.
- Cook with your children. Have them help in the kitchen. Whether their job is to set the table, pour the water, stir the soup, chop the veggies or wash the dishes, involving our children in the process of eating offers awareness of the good work involved in putting good food on the table, and gives them the opportunity to feel ownership and pride about this work on a regular basis.
- Start small – meet your kids where they are. Creating a struggle around food isn’t good for anyone. Be persistent, patient and sweet. Your children will reap the benefits their whole life long.