Ok, I have had quite a few supermoms in our practice asking me for ideas on how to get their little ones to eat more along the lines of the healthier lifestyle that they lead so I though I would use my experience and help with this challenge. Bearing in mind that I have only just become a supermom (in Jan 2014) but have had almost 15 years experience in looking after children and have many friends who have shared their experiences in going through a switch with their children so I have a rough idea of what works and what doesn’t, and these are just a few pointers to help you in the right direction, so here goes…
Quality comes first
The first thing we want to help our little ones with is to give them the best quality foods possible. This does not mean that you have to buy everything organic, grass-fed and pasture raised, it does mean getting the best quality that you can afford.
Real Foods are those that are are as close to their natural form as possible. They have no additives, preservatives, colourants and flavourings.
If it comes in a bag and has more than 3 ingredients then it’s not a real food, put it down and walk to the fresh produce section. Just doing this will make a massive difference to their well-being.
Adding before you subtract
When making any change, people who tend to get the best results do so by adding good things in before starting to remove anything bad, the same applies when it comes to changing what your children are eating. Introduce the change slowly by starting with one of their meals a day, it can be breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack, whichever you and your little ones will be most comfortable with.
It is best to introduce the change as soon as possible. Where possible start them from 6 months when they are being introduced to solids. Providing them with more nutrient dense ‘real foods’ which have been mashed will benefit more than poorer quality rice based foods that are on the shelves these days. Some moms find it harder to make a change with older children as they have already gotten used to eating the other foods you were giving them.
Little monkey see, little monkey do!
What happens when you tell your kids that you don’t want them to touch that VERY expensive vase in a shop? The first thing they do is go and touch it!
Children are F.O.M.O’s, they have a Fear Of Missing Out! If you would like them to try something new, make them think you don’t want them to have it.
Sit near them and eat the food, really enjoy eating it but not to the point where you are sitting there saying “yummmmm this is so tasty”. When they see you eating the food, enjoying it and not offering it to them they will start to get curious and will probably ask you what you are eating. Tell them what it is but also say that you don’t think they will like it or that it is only really for mommy, this will have peaked their attention and they will more than likely ask for a bite or to have some. Don’t give in straight away, pretend to protest a little bit more ad eventually ‘give in’ to them and let them have it.
Clear the ‘Crap’
A lot of supermoms say that they get so frustrated with their little ones lack of interest in the better choice that they ‘give up’ and give them the sandwich or muffin or pie or cereal. My suggestion would be to make sure that you don’t keep any ‘crap’ food in the house.
Clear your cupboards, removing any poor quality, nutrient lacking foods; pasta, breads, biscuits, chips, sweets, cereals, processed meats, frozen ready meals, dairy products… and replace them with high quality, nutrient dense foods; fresh meats, coconut milk, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, some nuts and some seeds. The less of these foods are in the house the less likely you are to just ‘give up’ and your children will eventually learn that there are no alternatives.
This was the motto of my Primary School back in Glasgow, it means Always Prepared. The more prepared you are the less likely you are to skip corners.
Plan your meals for the week, sit down and write out a list of what you are going to have at every meal and stick to it as best you can. This also helps in planning your shopping list for the week which in turn means you are less likely to fill your shopping trolly with ‘crap’ just for the sake of it. Remember that if you make double for dinner you will have leftovers for breakfast and/or lunch the next day or you can freeze some of it for another day.
I have heard numerous parents over the years telling their kids “Because I said so!”. Really, if someone tells YOU that are you gonna just do what they tell you? Children are by nature very curious and they absorb and understand more information than you realise. Explain to them in ways they will understand why you are making these changes to their eating habits and the benefits it will have on their health.
These foods will make you big, strong, fast, clever, handsome/pretty, just like (insert favourite sport star/cartoon character/movie star/teacher/friend).
The trick here is to appeal to their beliefs and values. No point in telling your son he will be big and strong like a rugby star if he wants to be a ballet dancer! Also be honest with them, tell them what different foods do to the body, both good and bad. You are not trying to scare them into good nutritional habits, you are allowing them to make better decisions for themselves. Eventually they will be telling their friend’s mom when they go for a play date that they don’t want a sandwich because grains rot your gut!
It is your child’s job to have fun, play is how kids learn and navigate the world. You can help them to play and have fun when it comes to nutrition too. From the planning of the shopping list to the visit to the shop to the making of the meal to the eating of the meal you can get your little ones involved.
Ask them to write (if they can), draw (more fun or for kids who haven’t quite mastered the art of writing yet) or tell you what their favourite foods are, then plan meals around this list. Ask them to write, draw or tell you the shopping list, based on the ingredients needed for each meal.
When you get to the shop, make it a game for them – Who can find the tomatoes first? Count how many different types of fish are at the counter. How many ingredients are there in this box? (If there are 4 or more then put it back on the shelf and move to the fresh ingredients).
Involve them in preparing the meal too. Obviously you don’t want a 3 year old chopping veggies but if there is something to be mixed, a button on a blender to be pushed, a switch to be flicked, ingredients to be counted, then get them involved.
Now I don’t know about you, but I most definitely don’t want to be making 2 or 3 different meals every night, one for the adults one for each child and then feed the pets too. A great way to get around this is to feed your little monkeys the same meal as you. Ok, so maybe not exactly the same, make a mini version of your meal, children love bit size food or arrange it into a funny face on their plate and yours if your that way inclined!
Cut things into exciting or different shapes, use bright coloured veg and fruit to decorate the plate, have a ‘make your own’ dinner where they have all the ingredients in dishes in front of them and have to put them together on their plate (paleo fajitas are a great idea for this), the options are endless and all depend on what appeals to your little one. This also ties in well with Little monkey see, little monkey do! earlier in this post.
“Stop playing with your food!” How many times have you heard that? In actual fact we should be encouraging our children to play with food. Kids love to get messy. Let them experience different textures. Mush up some foods and let them play with them. They will naturally lick their fingers so it is a good way to introduce new tastes. This is also great for children with sensory issues.
Don’t be scared to experiment with different foods. I’m not talking white lab coats and bubbling beakers! Mix and match your little one’s favourites, they will be quick to tell you if something tastes yuck.
I love trying substitutes, by that I don’t mean trying gluten free bread, for example substituting mashed cauliflower for mash potato in my homemade fish cakes, big mushrooms as individual pizza bases or julienne cut carrots or courgettes instead of spaghetti. Get creative with it. If it doesn’t work, don’t do it again.
“There is no failure only feedback.”
Release the outcome
One of the most important things to remember is, you are not in control. All you have is influence over your child’s actions while they are with you. When they go to a play date and the mom gives sandwiches, muffins, milkshakes or pizza as a snack, don’t be angry that the mom doesn’t know or that your child has eaten it.
Ask your little one what that food does to their body, how has it effected them (low energy/sleepy, bloated or sore tummy, runny or blocked nose, hyperactive). This will help them to understand what foods do to them and they are more likely to stay away from the foods that make them feel yuck.
If you lead by example and empower your children, they will learn to make better decisions about the food they eat and that will stay with them for a lifetime. As I said earlier in the Empower section, soon you will have them asking other moms for coconut milkshakes or veggies for a snack as their little monkey chows down on pizza or hear them trying to educate other little monkeys. 🙂 (Insert proud mom face here)
Movement as a nutrient
Movement is an essential nutrient for health and Vitality. We like to use the word movement instead of exercise as we find that the “e” word has negative connotations attached to it. Exercise means slogging it out in a gym or being picked last for a team game, whereas movement can be throwing a frisbee around, jumping on a trampoline or having a tickle fight. Your little ones will respond better to the word movement and are more likely to make it part of daily life, for life. Movement is a whole blog in itself.
Sleep is vital for growth and repair and your little ones are doing more growth and repair now than they will ever do in their entire life! Having your child’s nutrition dialled in will allow them to get a better night’s sleep and having a good night’s sleep will allow your children to get the best nutrients from the foods they are eating. Sleep is another blog in itself, look out for one coming in the future.
Children have stress too. When we talk about stress we look at how they are eating, moving and thinking. Try to address these as much as possible. Again, Stress needs it’s own blog so stay tuned for that one too.
Spine and Nervous System
Last and by no means least, make sure that your children’s spine and nervous system are clear. The nervous system is your body’s master control system and if there is any interference in that system it may result in many things; poor nutrient absorption, lack of quality sleep, restriction of movement to name but a few. Take your little one to a wellness Chiropractor to be checked regularly to ensure that their master control system is working at it’s best and helping them on their way to health and vitality and allowing them to Thrive!
What are some of your tried and tested ways to get your children to eat healthier?