I know people have different opinions on “healthy” eating. Thus, all the different diets out there, like raw food, vegan, and keto. I can only speak on what works for me and my family. As you may know, I have three young kids, including a toddler. The oldest is a super picky eater, while the toddler is semi-picky. Are my kids eat super healthy eaters? It depends on your standards. They definitely eat healthier than the norm for kids in the U.S. Here are some things we do to ensure they eat healthier:
Don’t enable your kids
A lot of parents complain about their kids being picky eaters and shunning healthy food. Here is my best tip: limit your kid’s access to unhealthy food. It seems simple, but can be easier said than done. We have no “junk food” in our house. No chips, cookies, candy, crackers, etc. If given the choice, most kids would pick junk food over healthy foods. My kids would probably eat junk food 80% of the time if left to their own vices. For instance, when they visit grandma, they will load up on junk food and decline foods they normally eat at home. But at home, they know what’s available and will request the foods we have without complaint.
Some parents think their kids would starve without processed foods. Remember: most kids rely on their parents to buy the food in the house. If kids get hungry enough, they will eat what is available. Trust that your kid will eventually find something that she likes to eat when you gradually take away the unhealthy options. Otherwise, keeping unhealthy foods around simply because your kid expresses dislike of healthy foods will only enable her habit of unhealthy eating.
Practice what you preach
As I mentioned earlier, parents usually buy the food in the house. If you want your kid to eat healthy, you have to eat healthy, too. Your kid will eventually see the irony if you don’t practice what you preach and eat junk food in front of her. It’s hard to be an enforcer if you’re breaking the rules yourself. If kids see you making healthy choices and know the reasons why, they are more likely to replicate these choices.
If you have an older kid who is resistant or can get her own food, changing her diet may be trickier. You may have to start with healthy substitutions of foods she enjoys, like healthier snacks or desserts. Depending on your kid’s age, simply discussing the ill-effects of unhealthy eating may help, such as acne, weight gain, etc.
It’s okay for kids to indulge
Lastly, I should say that I’m not super strict with my kids’ diets. My kids eat unhealthy when at their grandma’s every week, and if we happen to eat out. We also sometimes bake muffins or cookies at home, or go out for dessert. When we’re at parties or on vacation, I let them go crazy, since I know they eat healthy most other days. Also, I want them to enjoy themselves and to not have too many food rules. I want to strike the right balance where they know they should eat healthy without developing unhealthy food associations.
Make no mistake, they do have sugar pretty regular – in the form of fruit. I realize kids need and burn a lot of energy, so don’t get too worked up over them going heavier in the fruit department. I figure they at least get other nutrients through fruit versus processed foods. (Remember my prior article about how carbs are sugar.) Some people might think kids need processed foods like cereal and pizza for calories and to fill their bellies. I strive for more nutrient-dense foods, which can be calorically dense as well. For instance, smoothies, nut butter, and whole milk yogurt. I’d rather they eat these types of foods versus nutritionally void foods like mac ‘n cheese and Goldfish crackers.
Please comment below with any thoughts, tips, or suggestions on this topic!