I am on a quest to get families to get healthy. Helping your kids develop healthy habits early in life are one of the best gifts you can give. Every day I work with people who are fighting to stay healthy, get fit, lose weight and basically undo years of unhealthy practices toward their bodies. Some of these issues could be easily avoided if we had exposure to health and fitness as kids. Kids have a natural desire to run and eat fresh foods. (At least most do.) As parents, we need to encourage these natural inclinations and help them grow into a lifetime of habits that support good health. Please give your kids the foundation of good health so they can live long, healthy, happy lives.
Now, please know I am not talking about shoving food down your kids throats that they hate and dragging them out for grueling workouts. I am talking about being reasonable and BEING AN EXAMPLE! Choose healthful options yourself and show your kids how energetic and happy you are. Be the parent that plays baseball, not watches. Be the parent who is always eating a bowl of fruit or salad. If you start early your kids will follow your example, if not now, then later in life. What they say is true. One day you wake up and you are indeed your mother or father. LOL
So back to the best of December. My son is 5 and eats a pretty balanced diet. He's one of the few kids I know, that after years of taking one bite will now eat a bowl of broccoli. I encourage him to eat healthy, keep junk food and snacks to a minimum (Although we do let him indulge sometime, just as we indulge SOMETIME.) He gets run around time every day and I try to encourage his active nature. But like most kids, he is a picky eater. I try to introduce new foods each week in hopes that seeing me eat something new will peak his interest.
This week's new foods, pineapple and grapefruit juice. I cut up a fresh pineapple and he was so intrigued by this new treat that I had no problem convincing him to share a bowl full with me. He then proceeded to take the pineapple core and eat it like an ear of corn. What joy I felt as I saw his little face all shiny and happy with a pineapple juice mustache!
The next new treat was pink grapefruit. I have an inexpensive little electric citrus juicer. I enlist my son to help hand me lemons, limes, etc. when I use it. This particular morning he was in charge of the grapefruit. As he handed me the grapefruit, I asked him if he wanted to try some of the juice. He said no, but I told him he could take a little tiny taste and if he didn't like it, he didn't have to drink anymore. He obliged me. I poured him some in a shot glass (Don't judge me! It's the perfect size for him!) He drank it with a grimace and handed me back the glass. A few minutes later he came back and asked for more. SCORE FOR MOM!
Introducing new foods doesn't always turn out so successfully, but this week definitely made all my efforts over the years fruitful. Pun intended. :)
Here are some tips you can use at all ages your kids to eat more healthfully:
1. Introduce healthy foods early.
Eat healthy when you breastfeed so your kids develop a taste for vegetables and fruits. If you don't breastfeed, try to make some of your baby's first foods yourself at home in a blender so your children get a taste of fresh, whole foods early on. Fruits are an easy place to start with most kids. You do not have to make ALL their food. Who has time? Just make what you can. It will develop their palate so they enjoy these flavors.
2. Teach your children about healthy eating and foods that make them strong.
Do collages and have your kids cut out foods that are healthy vs. less healthy or junk food choices. Teach them that it's ok to indulge in treats, but that treats are just that - TREATS. They are not FOOD. Food nourishes and heals the body. Treats do nothing. My son eats candy, but he knows that's not what makes him grow and be strong.
This activity has a an added bonus. It helps you work with your kids on hand eye coordination. ;)
3. Create and environment that encourages your kids to try new things.
Keep fruits in a bowl on the kitchen table. Take your kids shopping with you to farm markets and produce sections. Let them pick out two things for dinner - one thing from the section of your choice (hopefully, the produce section.), one from the section of theirs. If they pick potato chips, serve them. Just use the time to teach portion control. Measure out the serving size on the bag and teach your kids to read the label. Talk with them about calories and fat, etc. Use wikipedia to give you more information or have your kids do an internet search to see what they can find and share with the family after dinner.
(This works well with kids who are a little older and may not have the healthy eating foundation.)
4. BE THE PARENT
Stop trying to be your kid's best friend by letting them do whatever they want. As a parent you have to make rules to keep order and to protect your kids. As a friend you have a responsibility to not lead them into harms way.
In our house the rule is you have to at least TRY new foods. "You don't have to love it, but you have to try." This gives kids an out if they don't want to eat something and keeps dinner from turning into a negative scene or a fight. And honor your word, if they don't like it, let it go. Seriously. Kids often say they do not like something that they have never even eaten. You do not have to force feed your kids, but make a rule that has them at least take 1-3 bites of things that you know are good for them. That at least gets one bite of broccoli down. LOL
5. Work WITH your kids.
Find a healthy activity that they like to do and find a healthy food that they like to eat, and then do that and serve that----ALOT!
The playground used to be our mainstay. Now my son hikes, runs and climbs. If they will only do one thing, then just do it. At some point their tastes will grow. It's the nature of kids to expand. For years we had organic corn as a mainstay at dinner time because it's what my son would eat. Hey, it's better than potato chips!
Thanks for reading.