There is no doubt that there is a huge movement towards paying more attention to what we eat. Never has there been such a focus on eating a whole food diet and being aware of where your food comes from.
As a naturopath, I am so glad that this movement is happening. I am finding more and more clients who come and see me have already made huge changes in the way that they eat and they have embraced many new foods into their daily diet.
Many of these clients are mother’s who have made the positive changes for themselves and their partners, but now want to make the healthy to their children’s diet. But how on earth do you get your kids to eat foods like sauerkraut, bone broth and kombucha? How do I get my child to eat healthy foods?
Well it doesn’t have to be that complicated, and it doesn’t have to be that extreme. Whilst I completely encourage you to include these healthy foods into your children’s diet, you may need to start with baby steps first.
Let’s start with what food your kids DO need –
Quality Protein – protein is essential for the growth and development of children. At the rate that kids grow we need to make sure that they are getting several serves of protein per day. Aim for grass fed beef and lamb, free range or organic poultry, organic eggs and nitrate free deli meats. Plant based proteins include legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds. These all have a role in the diet, however animal based protein is going to be assimilated into the body much easier than plant based protein.
Fruits and vegetables – Try to include fruits and vegetables at every meal. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables to maximise nutrient and mineral intake. If organic fruits and vegetables fit in the budget, then go for it. Like most families the grocery bills get expensive, so I recommend that you prioritising spending the extra money on organic animal based products over fruits and vegetables.
Sustainable Carbohydrates – Kids burn off a lot of energy and those busy brains needs lots of easy fuel. Provide this fuel to them in the way of long lasting carbohydrate energy. You can get this from vegetables such as potato, sweet potato and pumpkin. Gluten free grains such as oats, rice, quinoa and buckwheat are other great sources of healthy carbohydrates.
Healthy Fats – Fats are essential for brain development and cognition. This is a nutrient that many kids are lacking in. We want to give our kids plenty of omega 3 fatty acids, which are found primarily in oily fish and to a lesser extent in flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds. The problem with plant-based omega 3 is that it is hard for the body to absorb it. If your child does not eat 3 serves of oily fish per week, I strongly recommend that you look into getting a quality fish oil supplement for them.
Water – water should be their primary source of liquid. Stop with the juices and excessive amounts of milk, these just fill them up and prevent them from eating a real meal.
6 Subtle ways to improve your child’s diet.
1) Smoothies – you can pack a whole lot of nutrients into one little smoothie without the kids even knowing. You can start with either a base of organic full fat dairy, almond milk or coconut milk. Into this you add some things like frozen berries, frozen banana’s flax seeds, oats, chia seeds and nuts. Add some natural flavour with foods like natural vanilla extract, cacao powder or medjool dates. This can be a great way to start a busy morning. Plus you can freeze any left over’s into icy poles for an afternoon treat.
2) Throw away the margarine! – no one should be eating margarine. That black gunk that is dyed yellow to make us think it’s like butter is creating all sorts of inflammation in our body. The vegetable seeds oils that are extracted to make margarine are highly refined and they go oxidise (go rancid) during the process of making margarine. Go back to butter (organic) or other natural spreads like avocado.
3) Make your own snacks – it is hard to find store bought snacks that are not filled with sugar, gluten and vegetable seed oils. Even those ones that are marketed as being healthy are still loaded with various forms of sugar. Making snacks like these frozen banana pops, choc cranberry cookies or almond oat bites make very little time, plus your kids can help you to make them. I usually pick two snacks that I will make each week and make one on a Sunday afternoon and the other around Wednesday. This way we have fresh snacks on hand all week.
4) Reduce or eliminate gluten – Many people are very sceptical about gluten and it’s detrimental effect on people. Clinical practise has shown me over and over again that most people just feel better when they reduce or eliminate gluten. It is not disputed that gluten can trigger inflammation in the digestive system, and we are now realising that this inflammation may even be occurring in the brain. Whilst we can quite easily pinpoint when a food may be making us feel a little off, but it can be very hard for our kids to do this. I strongly encourage you to have some gluten free days to give the body a rest from it. Pay attention to your kids during the days after they have had either a lot of gluten or no gluten and just see if you notice any difference in things like their behaviour, their sleep, mucous products, bowel habits etc.
5) Bone broth as a liquid in cooking – I know I did mention that this one could be ‘seem’ a little hard. Bone broth is one of the most nutrient dense foods that you can make. If the idea of drinking a cup of it seems a little daunting, then simply use it as the stock or liquid whenever you are cooking your kids meals. I always freeze some in ice cube trays and in small containers so that I always have some on hand to use. Seriously though, don’t be afraid of this food, chicken bone broth taste just like chicken soup, give a warm mug of it to your kids and just see how they go.
6) Use organic full fat dairy products – for those who consume dairy products, please stay away from the reduced fat, non-organic and sweetened dairy products. Organic/free range dairy has a higher omega-3 content and is lower in the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. Organic dairy cows are more likely to have spent more time out doors eating grass. When an animal eats it’s natural diet it is going to produce a better quality milk. Please look into the farm that your milk comes from to ensure you are buying milk from healthy, happy cows.
Tips to ease the transition into eating real food.
Be a role model – if your children see you eating a healthy diet, then they are more likely to eat a healthy diet. Trying to eat together as a family as much as possible is a great way to lay the foundation of healthy eating habits.
Don’t use food as a reward – doing this is the perfect way to set your child up to be an emotional eater. I know it is quick and easy to diffuse a situation or to clear up the tears of a hurt child with the bribe of a delicious treat. You are much better off to let your child feel their emotion and to help them through it.
Make gradual, but firm changes – if you suddenly pile a high amount of green vegetables on your child’s dinner plate, naturally they may freak out. When you introduce a new food just give them a small portion, it will seem a lot more manageable for them and they are more likely to try it. Be clear to them that this is the food that you have made for them. If they refuse the meal, then let them go hungry until the next meal. Don’t give in and cook them a second meal. You will never succeed if you do this, as your child will know they just have to hold out and you will give in. It is okay if your child misses out on a few meals during this process. Children will never let themselves starve; they will end up eating to soothe their hunger. Please note if your child has any specific medical conditions, this may need to be taken into account before letting them miss out on a meal.
Don’t make a big deal out of it – if you make a big fuss over the new foods and try to force them to eat it, they will sense something odd is up and will want to resist it. Gently encourage them, if they don’t eat it, try again at the next meal. Don’t give up, be consistent with the healthy foods, and it will soon become normal to them.
Explain it to them – talk to your children about why you want them to eat healthy foods. Explain the benefits of healthy foods and negative points about eating junk food. Kids are remarkably wise and you would be surprised how many embrace the concept of healthy eating when they understand why.
Give them a choice – empower your child to make a choice when it comes to what they eat. Just give them the choice between varieties of healthy options. Children crave the sense of power, and allowing them this feeling will help you to get to your end goals without to many battles.
If you follow these steps you can slowly change the way your child eats. Remember you are adjusting their palate and they will need time to adjust to new flavours, textures and tastes. Be patient and be confident that you are setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating and good health that will then be passed onto their children.
I would love to hear how you go with getting your kids to eat a more healthy diet. Drop a comment below and get the conversation and tips going.