Imagine if your kids were as excited as you were to prepare some amazing meals with this gorgeous display of fruits and veggies? For most of us, the reality is our kids may think the colours here look pretty, but don’t you dare put that stuff on their plate! They have learned along the way that vegetables are the enemy, that healthy food must taste gross and if they put up enough of a fight, you may give in and hand over dessert anyhow.
As parents we start making decisions the minute our children are born that will affect how and what they will eat for the rest of their lives. I believe there are some simple steps we can take right from the beginning to give kids a healthy start. You can’t make them love vegetables, but you can ensure what they are eating is the healthiest option.
Making your own baby food . . . I know I know – blah. Why make your own when there are inexpensive jars of “all natural” baby food on store shelves? Most of those jars can stay on store shelves because they have preservatives in them preventing them from spoiling. There are so many benefits to making your own. I realized that when I cook & puree my own veggies I can control the salt, the sugar & the consistency; add more or less water for thicker or thiner baby food. Hint, thicker food is less messy.
ONLY whole wheat bread . . . my children have never had white bread. Well, not in my house! My oldest was 6 years old before she figured out there even was another kind of bread. She had it at a friends house and of course thought it was the greatest tasting invention ever! Still there is no white bread in my house.
Pureed vegetables . . . my kids have long out grown baby food, but I still cook and puree tons of veggies. I am not above hiding vegetables in my spaghetti sauces, macaroni & cheese, hamburger helper and even in muffins, cookies and brownies. Why not? They get all the nutrients of the vegetables in food they already love and I get none of the grief. Sometimes they don’t even know its in there.
Buy healthy cereals . . . and no fruity o’s and fruit shaped marshmallows are not healthy. Be a smart shopper, buy only simple cereals with whole grains that are not covered in tons of artificial colours, flavours and sugar. We have a self serve cupboard at our house with healthy cereals my kids can help themselves to anytime. I offer 4 different cereals but none of them have chocolate inside or cartoons characters on the front. I do buy treat cereals for just that, a treat . . but that treat is a dessert or a car snack for long trips. It is never the food they start their day with!
Juice . . . once a day. I’d rather they have real fruit and yes, I know juice from concentrate can be good for you in moderation. I think that is the key. There are good vitamins in juice but also a lot of sugar (26grams in a cup of apple juice!). My kids have always only been allowed 1 juice a day. Once thats done, your other choices are milk or water. And those drinks pretending to be juice? Those crystals and drink blends and juice hidden behind a label that says ‘cocktail’ . . . they are not juice! If you do buy juice, make sure it’s 100% real juice!
Lastly . . . vitamins. We make sure our kids eat fruit, grain, vegetable, protein and drink their milk. The vitamins are the extra . . .our girls are not big eaters so we know they need a bit more to get their daily requirements. Once your children reach two years of age, find a vitamin they like to take . . make it a fun and enjoyable experience. There are chewables, liquids and gummies on the market but read labels carefully as not all vitamins are created equal! Take your own Adult vitamins and set a good example. Look for vitamins without sugar fillers, sugar coating, aspartame, coloured dyes or non-medicinal ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize.
I know I can only make the decisions about what my kids eat for a few more years and then they will decide what choices to make at the cafeteria and the grocery store. I can only hope I have given them a few simple lessons to make informed & healthy decisions. Do you have any simple tricks you use at home?