“I strong! Because I eat my salad!”
My beautiful niece in the picture above, enjoying her daily salad
Children need nourishment to thrive. The food that we’ve marketed to them and infiltrated with sugar and refined carbohydrates is failing them. Many approaches to food for children forget to consider that nourishment is essential.
Everyday that goes by that children eat McDonald’s food, fish crackers en masse, sweet treats and sugary granola bars is a day that their bodies are deprived of what they need. Our North American way of eating fails to consider the nutritional needs of these small humans and fails to consider the fact that their bodies are growing and developing and it is absolutely essential that they receive the nutrients and fuel that they need.
By now you might be feeling overwhelmed because getting children to eat healthy food can be challenging! Don’t lose hope – today I’m sharing some stories and ideas below to encourage you not to give up and throw in the nutritional towel.
“Mom, I finally like salad!”
Molly, my 5 year old daughter
My daughter’s comment caught me off guard the other day. My kids faithfully eat salad as I ask them to many days during the week so that their bodies can receive good nourishment from vegetables, but particularly leafy greens. But I assumed it wasn’t their favorite thing as they usually exclaim over sweet potato fries or apple slices, not usually their bowl of salad. I ask them to eat greens and vegetables so that they can get the daily amount of nutrients that they need.
An ideal amount of leafy greens for adults, according to the research of Dr Terry Wahls, MD, is 3-6 cups of leafy greens per day to fuel their cells and essentially their bodies for good health (see The Wahl’s Protocol for more information https://terrywahls.com/).
We can scale that back a bit for smaller bodies and aim for 1-3 cups of leafy greens per day for small humans (kids).
You might be shaking your head thinking that that is impossible for your child - stay tuned; there is hope.
8 years ago, when my first born was enjoying solid foods, he would eat almost anything! I had fun making his first salad.
Then… he dropped most fruits and vegetables. And I started to research what to do because I’m a health professional and I didn’t want my son to not eat the foods he needs to grow and develop and play.
A dietitian put together a helpful article that gave me some ideas and some tools. Here are some of the things that I learned and some of the tools that I use when I coach clients.
Here's How I Helped Molly Enjoy Her Salad
- Have patience – helping your children to enjoy healthy food is a long pursuit
- Enjoy and delight in whatever 1-2 vegetables they already do like (peas and carrots count!)
- Give them many, many, opportunities to try new vegetables and new healthy foods as their first reaction is not often their final thought. It can take children 100 tries before their reaction is likely more lasting.
- Keep mealtimes positive and pleasant and avoid emotional battles
- If you are going to ask your child to try a new food, try it early in the day at breakfast or lunch and avoid overwhelming them in the evenings when they are tired and more prone to being emotional. This was key for me and my son!
- Don’t fill their plates and lives with convenience food, sugar, and easy to eat foods as this will numb their palate and discourage them from developing taste for real and whole foods
- Have conversations about what each food does for us and why we should be grateful for it’s role in our bodies
- Involve them as you decide what vegetables to make and let them choose when appropriate which ones to include for their meal
- Avoid lots of snacking - snacking for children can cause blood sugar issues and discourages a healthy appetite at meal times, particularly when the snack is not well-balanced (ask if you are curious about what a well-balanced snack looks like!)
- Treats should be few and far between - certainly not every week or weekend.
- Reduce or completely cut out refined sugar as this is one of the major culprits that numbs the palate and encourages kids to always desire processed foods
- Change the way you present vegetables: puree, make fun shapes and faces, make a healthy dipping sauce full of healthy fats and seasoning (avoid bottled dressing), roast vegetables to draw out the natural sweetness.
This list is not comprehensive and like adults, each child needs a personalized nutrition plan and gentle approach.
My sister recently undertook this approach with her second child. She had a first daughter who loves healthy food and had a very broad palate and wasn’t really interested in sweets. Helping her to eat healthy food was a pure delight.
Then, Rhett came along, and she would refuse vegetables and always prefer something like a cracker or a muffin (even just healthy, sugar-free muffins) or something that was easy to eat.
My sister, and client at the time, employed some of these strategies and over two years, she worked hard at introducing my niece to the foods she needs to thrive. And it worked!!
Last year, she had to have a lot of vegetables pureed or snuck into foods. This year, she loves her salad and likes to proudly tell everyone:
“I strong! Because I eat my salad!”
Invest in our future. Nourish your children. Don’t be fooled by kids’ menus and marketing that is designed to make you think that children need cute, packaged and overly processed foods.
The best kid-friendly food is found in the produce section at your local grocery store or market.
Rowan and Rhett are great examples of what most would label as picky eaters but with a little bit of targeted help, patience and nutrition strategies, they have developed into healthy eaters and are continuing to grow in their love of healthy foods.
If you have a picky eater, don’t give up!
Reach out for help for your children!
I would love to hear from you for your first FREE consult about how to begin a healthy eating pursuit for your children. I work with many families ONLINE and would love to consider taking on your family and nutrition needs for your children.
Posted April 15, 2022