I am asked often how I got my kids to eat so healthy. Well I can tell you in two words, Lifestyle and Example. There is not a magic potion to give to each of them so they instinctively will choose the whole wheat pasta over Wonder Bread. But over time if you provide the type of lifestyle and example to your children that is healthy, you will see fruit of that. Let me share how it worked for us. This of course if not exhaustive in any means, these are just a few insights that I discovered raising a tribe.
I realized early on that my kids will eat whatever I put in front of them. If its snack time, and I put home made cookies in front of them, they’ll eat them. I also found that if I put a plate of veggies on the table for a snack, they’d eat those too. It struck me in a fresh way, that 3 times a day, I was responsible for putting food in front of my children. That is a huge responsibility! I took my calling as a Mama seriously and felt that I had a stewardship for 11 little people plus my husband to provide nourishment that will help their bodies stay healthy. Because I believe nutrition is a big factor contributing to overall health and well-being, I had to think about what was being offered to my family, 3 times a day, 365 days of the year!!! If you do the math of the number of meals I’ve prepared in a given month for my huge family, its daunting to even think about . But because we lived on one income, and I was on a budget, I cooked a lot from scratch. I encourage you to take this seriously as part of your role as Mom. Even if you have a husband who loves to cook, part of your stewardship, is to educate yourself on nutrition and health and to do what you can to encourage healthy eating. Just as a side note, there are so many women I hear say that being a mom at home is boring. That was never my experience because I took my role very seriously. I was constantly educating myself on areas of mothering that I wanted to be an expert at. Remember, the craft of mothering takes time! So I spent a lot of time studying nutrition and health.
Here are some ways I would encourage healthy eating in our children. I also want to add that most of my children are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, and in fact many of them eat healthier than I do! I love to see this. My heart is thrilled in any area when I see my kids go way further than me. I feel I’ve done my job well.
Some practical suggestions to get healthy foods into your children. (these are in no particular order)
1.Keep consistently offering healthy options. We had salads pretty much at every dinner. We have two options of dressings: Ranch and some version of Italian, Balsamic, etc. There are lots of ideas on Pinterest for home made healthy salad dressing options. As soon as the little kids were able to chew salad and had teeth to do so, I would give them a small amount of salad with ranch dressing and encourage them to take a couple bites. I would consistently do this and honestly over time they would try a few bites, the ranch dressing definitely helped. Eventually they would get to where they would enjoy having salad. I pretty much always buy Romaine lettuce as it has extra calcium and since we aren’t big milk drinkers I am always looking for ways to get extra calcium into our diets. I stopped buying that white looking head lettuce years ago because I just don’t feel it gives you the nutritional bang for your buck, our choices now are romaine, spinach, spring green mixes, I switch it up, but earlier when we had all the kids at home the romaine was affordable for our budget so that was it. I also grated carrots in the salad. This was easier for kids to chew and less of a choke hazard..
2. Use whole wheat pasta. I started out using white pasta because that was cheap and I didn’t think I could get everyone to eat whole wheat pasta. But the more I read I became convinced whole wheat pasta was the way to go nutritionally. So I started using half white pasta, half whole wheat. Low and behold they really didn’t notice a difference. I gradually moved to 100% whole wheat. Healthy pasta’s have become relatively cheap now so there’s no excuse not to try the varieties available. I’ve used soy artichoke pasta, lentil pasta, and there are lots of gluten free options as well. Be creative with your family. Over time as you stay consistently offering healthier options, it will be second nature to them.
3. I offered fruit and yogurt at every breakfast. We would have some extras at times, like oatmeal, home made whole grain muffins, cereal, etc but always the fruit and yogurt. The book Fit For Life encouraged eating fruit in the morning. I pretty much do that as a habit, so I wanted the kids to develop a habit of fruit for breakfast. The yogurt provided good gut health. As far as vitamins, I gave my kids a multiple vitamin and a 500 mg Vit c daily. During the entire school year this was our daily regimen.. Very healthy kids overall, more on this in my health regimen/ alternative medicine entry.
4. Water is our drink of choice. We invested in a RO (reverse osmosis) system to provide pure drinking water for our children and that was what we drank. Lots and lots of water. We felt this was an investment in our children’s health. Pop was a rarety, Occasionally for a holiday or a special day, we’d have juice mixed with ginger ale for a fizzy treat! But no pop and not much juice on a daily basis. Even natural sugar can rot their teeth.
I know there are more things we did but these are a couple that I can vividly recall, if you have specific questions , feel free to reach out to me, I’m happy to answer specifics. And I’d love to hear how you encourage your children to eat healthy food.