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I vowed when I became pregnant that MY child will never eat the way I did. I told my parents and grandparents, even her dad, that I will pack her food and she is to ONLY eat what I pack her. I had these plans to make every ounce of baby food, so I could control the ingredients. My daughter was going to eat clean and NEVER have preservatives. Yeah! That didn’t last long!
I started out making her baby food, which I loved. It was cheap and easy. One butternut squash made enough meals for 2 weeks! It wasn’t really that time consuming either. My daughter never had premade food until about 7 months when it was time to start mixing foods together. That’s when I started buying baby food because I could find a more variety. I found a really great brand called Beech-Nut. I LOVED the Beech-Nut naturals because there was nothing else in it besides what the name was. I found baby food with chai seeds, quinoa, and acai berries. I knew these foods were healthy, so I felt good about giving them to my daughter.
The Big Girl Food
All of a sudden at 10 months, my daughter decided to not eat baby food any more. She wanted to be a big girl. Even simple things like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich had to be cut in half instead of tiny pieces because she wanted big girl food. I found myself giving her pizza
a few times…okay sometimes it was like 2-3 times a week. I started questioning myself again. Did I want my daughter to grow up and struggle with food like I do? No! It’s okay to have pizza or chips every once in a while, but not weekly. I want my daughter to grow up being a healthy eater.
Here are my top 10 Ways to Raise Healthy Eaters
1. Start with Veggies
One of the best pieces of advice I got from my pediatrician was to start with vegetables. When babies start out on fruit they develop a strong liking for the sweetness and expect all their food to be sweet from there on out. Starting with vegetables increases the chance of a vegetable eater later in life. I started Sicily with the most yuckiest vegetable…peas! She hated them. Took one bite and refused to open her mouth. We didn’t have any fruit until about 9 months. She loves her fruit, but she loves her vegetables just as much. Some times she will pick her vegetable over the fruit on her plate. Oh and she loves peas now!
2.Have them help with planning
When Sicily gets old enough, I plan on having her help me plan our meals. Kids love to do adult things. It makes them feel grown up and gain a sense of pride. If she knew she planned that meal, she will eat it. Not only will this help with getting your child to eat healthy, it teaches so many great skills such an organization, math, real life skills. Now you can’t let them plan every meal on their own or you will be eating chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and pizza for the rest of your life. Give them choices and plan meals together. Tell them “We have ingredients to have chicken pot pie or tacos on Tuesday night. Which would you like?” By giving them choices you are controlling the healthiness and variety of the meals as well as giving them that sense of pride in choosing the meal.
3. Use fruit as a dessert
Fruit is sweet just like dessert, so use it as a treat after dinner. Last night we had strawberries with a little whipped cream for dessert. I didn’t feel bad about giving her that dessert because it was healthy. In the summer you can grill the fruit or make healthy smoothies. Popsicles are another great dessert if you make them from scratch so you can control the ingredients. I love these popsicle molds. They make oversized popsicles, which is always great for the kids!
4. Have them help with prepping
I am a big supporter of kids in the kitchen. It’s fun for them and a great way to build some skills. They build literacy skills by reading recipes, and math skills by measuring and counting out ingredients. Fine motor skills is a big one in the kitchen from stirring, mixing, and pouring. Did I mention it’s fun? Yes you will make a HUGE mess! I believe that real learning doesn’t happen without a really big mess. Get them to help you clean up to teach responsibility.
5. Be a good role model
This is where I struggle. I grew up surrounded by soda, fast food, and junk. I struggle every day with choosing healthy food over junk food. This factor is the main reason why I want my daughter to grow up being a healthy eater. I don’t want her to struggle with food as an adult. Kids look up to you and learn from you. What you do, they do. If they see you eat healthy, then they will want to eat healthy. If you are eating a bag of chips at a time, but tell your child that it’s not healthy they will not listen. They follow by example, not by what you tell them.
6. Tell them why
Kids are naturally curious. They want to know everything. Just telling them that an apple is good for them isn’t good enough. You need to tell them why. They are more likely to choose that apple over candy if they know why it’s important. You don’t have to get technical here. A simple, “Eat your carrots. It helps you have pretty eyes and great eye sight.” will work. Go ahead and tell them why NOT to eat something as well, such as chips. Be specific! A simple “it’ll make you fat” or “it’s just yummy” is not going to satisfy your curious child. I added the “it’ll make you fat” on purpose. PLEASE do not tell them that a food will make them skinny or fat. This will lead to a bad self image.
7. Make it visually pleasing
Make it pretty! I really like these cookie cutters for cutting sandwiches and cheese into designs. Turn your breakfast into a pancake smiley face. Make it theme related. For St. Patrick’s day have all green food and turn everything into a heart on Valentine’s Day. If it looks interesting, they will eat it.
8. Take them shopping
Make this a whole process. Work together to plan out the meals for the week and make a grocery list and then go shopping together. Again, this is a great way to build different skills. A lot of parents don’t take kids to the store because it is a hassle, but if you ask them to help they will be a great asset to your shopping adventure. Give them jobs such as counting, “We need 5 apples, can you help me count them?” Or send them on a scavenger hunt, “In this aisle we need tortillas, who can find them first?”
9. Don’t make junk food accessible
If it’s not in the house, they won’t eat it. Just don’t buy it, but on the other hand don’t deprive them either. It’s okay to have junk food every once in a while. Family game night? Okay let’s buy a bag of chips. But don’t have LOADS of junk food lying around the house. If it’s there it’s going to be tempting. Only buy junk food for special occasions like family game night, a celebration, or a picnic.
10. Hide the Goods
This is my last resort tip. Some kids, and even husbands, just won’t touch a vegetable, especially if you start them on vegetables later in life. In this case, hide them. Hiding them should be a temporary fix. You want them to grow into a healthy adult eater. If you hide them, who is going to hide them when they grow up? Hiding them is a great way to give your child the nutrition while you work on slowly introducing them to vegetables that are not hidden. A piece of advice: If you give your child a carrot and he refuses to eat it, don’t tell him you hide it in his mac and cheese or he won’t eat anything any more. The Sneaky Chef is a great recipe book that hides food in your children, and husbands, meals.
The best tip I can give you is start early and make it fun. If kids associate stress with food than food will become their enemy when they get older.
Keep growing with us!