Healthy Kids, Healthy Eaters!
People are always asking me about what I eat. But even more than that, I get asked about what Colt eats. For obvious reasons, prior to having a child of my own, my presentations on healthy eating and feeding the family would fall on deaf ears. "Sure," they would say. "Just wait... you have no idea how hard it is to feed kids healthfully! All they want is fast food, chicken nuggets, goldfish, and macaroni and cheese." My son has never eaten any of those things.
Now before this turns into what sounds like a big bragfest about being an awesome mom, let me be clear on a few things. First of all, raising a kid is freaking exhausting. They are grumpy little turds that are constantly seeking new ways to wear you down and ensure that they get whatever they want. Secondly, parenting is the most gigantic job ever with one million moving parts. It's like you are the CEO of a major manufacturing company (one that makes amazing adults that contribute to society)! But, you are also the CFO, the manager.... of EVERY department, the HR department, the motivational speaker, events coordinator, janitorial staff, and the resident psychotherapist. You can't possibly do all of these things well, all the time. And so, we do the things well that we naturally do well and we turn to our friends and family for thoughts and advice on how to make the other stuff run smoothly. Feeding my family is what I do well. To me, it's super easy. Hopefully, I can help you grab on to a few ideas to help you do a little better in that area..... and then you can come get my kid to stop walking across the kitchen counter with a butcher knife. Deal?
So, How do you raise HEALTHY EATERS? We've followed a couple of basics that have not only helped us to develop his palate, but have also helped us not gain and keep "the baby weight."
There is no such thing as "Kid Foods" when it comes to raising a Healthy Eater!
There is good, healthy food and there is crappy, processed food. Period. Typical "Kid Foods" fall in that second category and I don't give a flying flip whether it says organic or not. We simply have healthy, wholesome foods in our house. The first step in raising a healthy eater is to understand that it makes no sense whatsoever to say "well, little Johnny can eat this but I shouldn't cause I'm on a diet." Right? Do you see how ridiculous that is? Kids' nutrient needs aren't less than yours; they are actually HIGHER! Those little boogers expend a shit ton of energy all while trying to grow and learn and do all sorts of bodily processes, AND getting them to consume what one would perceive as a full meal is akin to one of those stupid games at the fair where you aim for a moving target, never actually winning anything. One added bonus here: If you finish your plate and your kid's plate has leftovers of the exact same thing you just ate, it's not nearly as tempting to become a human vacuum cleaner. I mean, EVERYONE can squeeze in a few more bites of Mac and Cheese, no matter how full they are, right? Can I get an Amen on that? (That's how you get fat as a parent, friends)
Healthy Eaters haven't learned to recognize packaging (think Kraft Mac and Cheese, GoGurt, Cereal).
This is multi-purpose. First, kids recognize packaging. The marketing companies make sure of that! If they see the food in the pantry, it will be a hard sell to convince them to eat something more wholesome and less processed. If these foods aren't present, I never have to argue with my kid about what he is going to eat. I literally open the pantry and the refrigerator and ask him what he wants. There is nothing in our house that is ever a "No." Ever. If all he wants all day is homemade date balls (like THIS or THIS), he can have at it. I'm not going to fight over food. And some days, that is literally all he eats with maybe a few cashews thrown in for some sort of balance. The ONLY things he has to choose from are just fine for him to eat all day, every day.
Healthy Eaters have a limited exposure to extra fun foods.
One thing we noticed right off the bat is how tempting it is to give your kid a treat. Mark would give him a bite of chocolate (90% dark at our house) and I would offer him this or that and grandma would offer something else and suddenly, he'd had quite a few treats in a day. No one means to sabotage anything, it's just so fun to give your kid a treat and remember when you got ice cream as a kid, or whatever. The reality was, though, that without us offering these foods, Colt didn't even know they existed. Now, we keep special treat type foods to the rare Saturday outing or a family get together. And even then, we don't offer the food. We simply serve ourselves what we want and if he sees it and asks for a taste, we give it to him. It's real nonchalant. Do you see the difference between that and "Ohhhhh Co-olt!! We're gonna have some yummy birthday cake. Stop playing and come sit down at the table. Here, have another bite!" Etc Etc Etc?
Introduce foods early and often to raise a Healthy Eater.
For those of you who still have a wee little baby, let me just say that starting them off on the right foot makes this whole process easier. Colt's first food was bone broth frozen into ice cubes. We put these into mesh sacks and he sucked on them. From there, we added soft egg yolks, avocado, butternut squash, bone marrow and liver. That's a far cry from rice cereal which is straight carbs and no nutrients. We quickly introduced fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kombucha, to develop a palate for sour. And he never snacked on any kind of puff or cereal or melt thing. Now, we offer him everything at meals that we are eating. When we have a less nutrient dense food (like rice), we lead with the other foods. When he tires of those, we bring out the rice to re-engage him.
Healthy Eaters don't view meal time as a battle.
This last point is a bit off topic but so important. We don't fight with Colt to sit for long periods at the table. It's not fun for anyone and it creates an environment where he is ready for a fight from the get- go (especially if he hasn't had a good nap). We compromise about where we eat, too. "Colt, do you want to do a picnic on the floor, sit at your table or sit up high at Mommy and Daddy's Table?" I don't care where we eat. As a mom, I've done a lot more demeaning things than to have a picnic on the floor of the kitchen, for goodness sakes! Basically, if meal time is all about yelling and fighting and force feeding, there's not a whole lot of incentive for everyone to even want to TRY to maintain this important part of family life. Take a deep breath, and choose wisely.
So what does my little Healthy Eater eat?
This was dinner last night: Spaghetti squash with a meat sauce that contained grass fed ground beef and pork sausage from a local free range pig we recently had slaughtered, sliced beets, three servings of sauerkraut, and a slice of avocado. This was a good day ;-) Tonight, we might be back to five date balls and a handful of cashews, but hey, "Ya win some, ya lose some...."