We all want to raise a healthy eater…but sometimes that seems like asking a pig to sprout wings and fly to the moon. It just aint happening!
I’m here to say it can be done! You can totally raise a kid who loves healthy food, and I’m going to give you 9 more ways to make that happen.
This is the second post in the series. The first post, 10 Things I Did to Raise a Healthy Eater, covered the foundation that I laid from pregnancy through first foods.
In this post, I cover some of the day to day ways I keep my little one eating healthy. Here are 9 more things I did to raise a healthy eater. I hope you find some helpful tips that you too can implement with your family.
1. Teach them about different fruits and veggies at the market
My daughter and I have a game we play at the market. I point to a fruit or vegetable and she tells me the name. A right answer gets a big high five, and for those foods she doesn’t know I give her a fun fact about them. This exposes her to all the culinary possibilities and helps get her excited about something new.
I recently read an article about how many kiddos today can’t even identify simple foods like onions or tomatoes. This is truly a sad thing when a kid can identify Ronald McDonald, but a simple tomato draws a blank.
2. Offer opportunities to keep trying foods that were previously rejected
Even the healthiest eater won’t love everything. And most kids will reject a food before they learn to love it. Remember not to give up on a rejected food. Keep at it and try offering it in different forms.
For example, my daughter hates avocado. . I could eat avocado all day every day, but my little one can’t even look at it. She hates it like cats hate water. Even so I did manage to get her to eat it once.
Instead of serving avocado whole, I made guacamole with a dollop of her favorite (organic cultured) sour cream and served it with a side of her favorite blue-corn chips. Although she soon discovered what I had done, “sneaky mommy” she exclaimed, the kid did eat it.
So don’t give up mommies. Keep trying.
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3. Make them your little helpers
Once they are older recruit your child to help around the kitchen. As you know once kids reach a certain point, they want to do EVERYTHING themselves. This can drive even the most patient mama crazy. But this is one area where you can use it to your advantage.
Allowing them to help you in age-appropriate ways gives them an investment in their meals. They will look forward to kitchen time and get to watch their meal evolve into tasty food.
4. Always have healthy snacks on you
The fact is that if you are hungry you’ll eat almost anything. So avoid an angry tummy by packing an approved snack.
I always have a few organic granola bars in my bag and always pack a snack for day trips and playdates. It’s important that you have something to fall back on. This way you can avoid eating unhealthy food out of desperation.
5. Never force them to finish food
I have a personal philosophy that no one should be forced to eat anything. Kids included.
It’s just one of those things that feels like crossing the line.
I grew up watching parents literally prying open kid’s mouths and forcing food down despite tears and protests. It’s a shitty thing to do to another person, and I swore I’d never do that to my child.
Parenting is about building trust and respect between parent and child, and if they trust you, they will likely give the new food a try. If you respect them, they know they won’t be forced to eat it if they don’t like it.
I’ve used this approach very successfully with my daughter. She’s open to trying new things because she knows that if she hates it, I won’t make her eat it.
Whatever you do don’t physically force them to eat any food, it can be traumatic and erode the trust between you.
6. Allow choice among healthy foods
As you see, I do not force my child to eat anything, but I do restrict her choice to a few planned foods or meals. This gives her a chance to exercise her autonomy but also allows me to direct her diet.
For example right now her breakfast snack is either watermelon, grapes, or an apple. For lunch, she might choose between pinto beans or black beans, and so on.
She loves being able to choose “like a big girl” and I still get to decide what she chooses from. It’s a win-win.
7. Take them to the farmers market or a farm
If you can find a farmer’s market in your area, I highly recommend you take your kids. Once you are there talk about the foods that are in season and engage the farmers in conversation about the produce.
Your child will understand that foods grow during different times of the year. They will also learn what food grows in your local area. Plus, meeting farmers helps them understand who is behind their food.
Basically, doing this helps connect children with their food.
8. Offer them healthier treats
Let me start by saying we are not perfect eaters. We love our treats and as a foodie I believe in the pleasure of eating. So yes, we indulge.
But staying true to my food philosophy our indulgences have to real food.
In other words no artificial colors, no artificial preservatives, no fake anything, and it should be organic if possible. Locally produced is even better.
So what does my little one indulge in? At the moment her choices for treats are dark chocolate covered raisins, coconut milk pudding (omnomnom), a homemade paleo cupcake, or an organic lollipop.
If you are clever about your choices you can sneak in great nutrition into these treats. Like the antioxidant-rich dark chocolate covered raisins. Treats can be nutritious!
9. Teach them to ask permission before they eat anything
This is a good practice for any child. You don’t want them eating something that’s not food, like medication or cleaners. But for our purposes it means they will defer to you before trying any food you wouldn’t approve of.
The fact is, they will be offered foods that are not ideal. In my case temptation is everywhere and so my little one knows to ask mommy before eating anything.
I started teaching her when she was very young, as a way to make sure she didn’t eat anything dangerous. But now it’s evolved into making sure I approve of everything she eats.
Now my little one happily defers to me before any food crosses her lips. Remember the trust we talked about earlier? This is where trust can be a great tool.
This approach does take work and reinforcement but is very important for safety and long-term health.
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It’s all about balance
I hope something on this list and the previous post, 10 Things I Did to Raise a Healthy Eater, will help you find your healthy groove with little one.
If you want to read more about my little one’s eating habits read What I Feed My Child to Keep Her Healthy And remember it’s not about being perfect, it’s about finding balance.
I don’t want anyone to feel like they aren’t good enough or beat themselves up for past mistakes.
This journey is about trying to be a little better each day. It’s about learning, and then making good choices once you are armed with knowledge. Remember ALL mommies are amazing!
Have you tried any of these tips yourself? How do you help your little one eat healthily? Share your tips in the comments below.
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Until next time beautiful families!
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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: None of the health topics presented on Filtered Family have been evaluated or approved by the FDA. They should not replace personal judgment nor medical treatment, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always talk to your naturopathic physician or M.D. about the use of these or any other complimentary modalities. Reading this website denotes your understanding and agreement to our full disclaimer.