So, you’ve changed your diet for the better and you’re feeling amazing. You’ve maybe lost some weight, gained some energy, you’re feeling more comfortable in your skin, and you’re super motivated to keep up the good work. However, your kids are still eating all the things you’ve started to avoid…and you don’t know what to do about it. You want them to be well nourished with the delicious food you’ve started eating but feel overwhelmed with exactly how to make that big change. Hopefully I can help! We’ve got a 3 series post of 15 tips coming your way on how to get your kids on board with a real food diet. We’re kicking off the series with the first 5 to get you going. So, let’s get into it – the first 5 tips to help you get your kids on board with a real food diet.
Don’t buy the bad stuff!
We’ve all been there – you’re at the grocery store and your children are begging for Cheetos or Lucky Charms. Their whining is starting to get to you and you are tempted to appease them, ‘just this once’, in order to go back to shopping in peace. Resist the urge! Giving in to them will only put you right back in the same spot next week. They need to know that you mean business – no bad food goes home from the grocery store. If your pantry and fridge are stocked with nutritional foods then your kids can only choose nutritional foods for snacks. It’s as easy as that! The hardest part is saying no at the grocery store. Once you’ve done it for a few weeks your kids will stop asking for the bad stuff. And even if they don’t stop asking, you will become used to saying no and it will get easier for you to stay strong in your choice.
Talk to them about what is in their food
I know what you’re thinking – they’re kids. How are they going to understand the nutritional jargon in a food label? They probably won’t! But you say it anyway. I started talking to my oldest son about ingredients on the food label when he was 3 years old and my middle child was only 1. I have no idea if he understood what I was saying back then, but he does now. He will pick a food item off the shelf (most likely something boxed and processed) and ask if we can buy it. I will say, “Let’s check the label and see what’s in it!” and flip the item over to the label and read the ingredients out loud. When I get to an undesirable one like canola oil or high fructose corn syrup I’ll gasp and say, “Oh noooo. It has canola oil in it. Man! That’s too bad. That makes us feel icky. Let’s find something that makes us feel good.” You don’t need to explain why the canola oil or high fructose syrup isn’t good for them at this point, but as they get older you can go into more detail so they understand the reasoning behind it. As for now, they just start to learn the ingredients that they should avoid and the ones they should aim to eat. Can you imagine if our parents had done this for us?! We are arming our children with the knowledge of nutrition. It’s an amazing gift!
Involve your kids in the cooking
This is a tough one because cooking with kids can be MESSY. It’s also much more time consuming than cooking by yourself. But they love to do it with you. Maybe you don’t need to involve them in the entire cooking process but just give them a job or two to satisfy their need to help you in the kitchen. This can be as simple as cracking a few eggs, stirring ingredients, adding salt and pepper to cooked veggies, or even just setting the oven timer. I’ve noticed that if my kids help me in the kitchen they are much more apt to try what we’ve cooked together. So this would be a great time to try something that they don’t normally eat like a new vegetable! As you are cooking you can talk about the food you are making and how yummy it will be and how good it is for them. Make it a special mommy or daddy time together with your child.
Feed them what you eat
You’ve probably already heard this a million times which means it’s tried and true. Do not – I repeat -do not – feed them separate meals. I get it though, you just want your child to EAT. They’re cranky and hangry and you’re just done with the whining and the crying. And let’s be honest, it’s much easier to handle the hours leading up to bedtime if your child is full and happy. But you’re doing them, and yourself, a disservice. Your child will never learn to try new foods if they eat the same foods over and over again. If you do this, you are the one that is making them a picky eater. The first few days, or even weeks, will be really tough as you break this habit. Stay strong! Over time, your kids will learn that what they are served is what they eat. They can choose not to eat it, and that’s fine! But they will not get another option. This is also a great time to teach your kids about being thankful for their food and the time you spent making it regardless if they like it or not.
Set a good example
Your kids are always watching. You’ve heard them repeat phrases you say and even mannerisms. It’s not any different with food. If they see you eating greens at every meal they will start to think it’s the norm and ask for greens too. If they see you binging on chips, they’ll want to binge on chips too. Set the stage for your kiddos by treating your body well with eating a nutrient dense diet with lots of variety. They will follow suit. Maybe not right away, but they will eventually. I promise!
Stay tuned for the next round of tips! In the meantime if you have any tips of your own I’d love to hear them – be sure and leave a comment so others can read them too!
Sloane Simon, a mom of 3 young boys living in Dallas, TX, is passionate about health and wellness and on a mission to teach her kids the importance of a real, whole foods diet. Last January she started an Instagram page (@simonsaysrealfood) with a blog and website in the works to chronicle this real food journey with her family. She shares recipe recommendations, lunchbox ideas, tips for cooking with kids, and tips for getting kids on board with a real food diet. She is in the process of becoming certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association and will receive her certification this June.