Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Healthy Kid Tips

Aside from being a self-proclaimed Health Nut, I am also a mom with plenty of previous experience in the child care field.  Here are a few things I have learned along the way:

Kids, in general, are picky eaters.  Sure, they may eat any junk you give them but try giving them a salad, a fruit, a plate of steamed veggies - what is their reaction?  My diet has not always been as healthy as it is now and it is far from as healthy as I'd like it to be.  When my daughter was born, I ate much differently so she didn't get the start that I now wish she had.  She is till picky and does not like to try new things.  Here's the thing: If you allow your child the freedom to choose what he or she will eat on a regular basis, you are not only going to raise a picky eater, but a spoiled brat.  Children need guidance and rules.  If your child refuses the healthy dinner you just prepared, you have several choices:  You can prepare a new meal for him. You can send him to bed with nothing.  Or you can force feed him. 

If you make your child another meal, you are saying, "Hail Queen/King (enter Childs name here)".  You are setting yourself up to be a slave to your child.  You will be walked all over and you will have a brat.  This is true 99.99% of the time. 

If you force feed your child, you are creating a very negative experience and your child will grow to resent you.  This is also true 99.99% of the time.

This is the rule in our home: 
Addison must try everything on her plate.  3 bites each.  No exceptions.  If she refuses, I will not force it into her face, but she will eat alone and not be permitted to leave the table to play with anything at the table until she does. 

If she decides after trying it that she does not like it, she may leave but NOTHING else for the rest of the night.  AND I choose her breakfast in the morning.  So, if she takes 3 bites each and thats it, she goes to bed shortly after and when she wakes up on an empty stomach, she will eat whatever healthy option I put in front of her.  The same rules apply for this meal (and others) as well.  The trick is catching your kid hungry enough to eat it.  Studies have shown it takes anywhere from 12-20 times of being introduced to a new food for a child to 'like' it.  Catch them hungry!

OR, if after trying her dinner she eats MOST of it, she is permitted dessert.  For most kids, put a cupcake in front of them and they'll scarf the food down. 

Be consistent.  Be firm.  Do NOT cave.  YOU are the parent...don't be a sissy.  It's pathetic.  You are NOT starving your child.  You are offering food.  Your child is just being stubborn.  You can tell if your child TRULY does not like something.  Addison tells me all the time "I don't like it'.  Guess what?  It's because you're hoping I take it away so you can eat junk or go play.  Not gonna happen.  I have seen her cry real tears over 1 or 2 items in the past 2 1/2 years.  These foods she obviously truly does not like and I will continue to offer them to her and require at least 1 bite, but I will not make her go to bed hungry in cases like this. 

1.  Require that your child try each food on their plate.
2.  If they do not eat an adequate amount, do not give them any other options.  They will get hungry and when they do, use that as another opportunity to try new foods.
3.  Do not put a plate of brussel sprouts in front of them while you chow down on a peanut butter sandwich.  DO let them see you eat dessert AFTER FINISHING your brussel sprouts and dinner. 
4.  Hiding mashed up veggies in kids food is a great idea to add nutritional value to their food, but NOT a good way to encourage them trying new things.  Instead, follow the above rules and the following tip:

Kids like to be hands on.  It's how they learn.  The first time I was able to get Addison to eat a salad was when we did a Salad Bar for lunch.  I took out bowls, lettuce, sunflower seeds, nuts, dried fruit, veggies, etc and let her make her own.  She HAD to start with lettuce in a bowl and then could add whatever else she liked and pour the dressing herself.  She LOVED it!

The more kids participate in their own food, the more likely they are to try it willingly.  If Addison is allowed to season her own food, she'll eat it.  She could care less about the season itself...she just likes to shake the shaker and feel like she made it her own.  Since salt is not a healthy option to dump on all food, I buy Dulse powder in a shaker (at health food stores).  Its a sea vegetable that adds tons of nutritional value and she can go wild with it.

Some other good ideas for kid friendly dinners:

Buy large whole grain tortillas and let each person make their own.  Put all of the fillings in separate bowls (yes, its a bitch to clean...suck it up) with spoons for self-serving. 
Tofu and/or Shrimp
Vegan Mayo or Sour Cream
Vegan shredded cheese
Any other leftover steamed or fresh veggies
Use your imagination!

Use the same types of ingredients without the tortilla to make Rice Bowls.  Add salsa, crushed tortilla chips and chopped cilantro to your 'bar' to go Mexican.

Make a rule that they MUST choose 2 or 3 veggie options.  Let them choose which ones.  (If you know they LOVE 2 of them, make them choose 3...get them to go outside of the box a little when creating their dishes.)

Now watch them finish and if you're up for it, lay out the vegan chocolate syrup, ricemellow fluff and cherries for an Ice Cream Bar! 


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