How to Help Your Kids Eat Real Food
“My kids are too old.”
“I wish I would’ve started them earlier.”
“My kids would never eat that!”
These are comments that I hear all the time when it comes to kids and real food. And my immediate answer is always the same – they aren’t too old; if you give them a chance, and if you are consistent, it really (pardon the pun) is possible to help your kids eat real food. So today I want to tell you about my story and what worked for me, and give you some tips that should also work for you.
Since the age of 17, I thought I was eating healthfully. I was active, I read magazines such as Shape, Health and Fitness and took their nutritional advice. But it was 7 years ago that I got tuned into a new type of healthy: real food. We’re talking unprocessed, steer clear of preservatives, and focus on foods from nature. It was a new “diet”, in terms of foods that you seek, and I wanted my kids, who were at that time 8, 6, 4 and 1 to reap the benefits that I was. Because as parents, you know, we only want the best for our kids.
When it comes to food, I believe that it is our job to educate and provide options for our kids. I cannot guarantee that my kids will always have adequate servings of fruits and vegetables when they grow up. I don’t know whether they will seek out organic (or frankly if they will be able to afford it, or even if it will be a “thing”), but I believe that it is my responsibility to give them the knowledge so that they can do with it what they please. (In the meantime, I’ll say a few prayers!)
At the time, I was buying Goldfish (whole grain);) and we certainly had food dyes lurking in our foods. But as I got educated, I started implementing changes for the kids. Such as simply not buying the Goldfish. Don’t forget – we make the buying decisions … we do have some control and say. Things went slowly, but with time they changed. For all of us. The 6 of us are proof that tastebuds can change. Your kids (and you!) can also make changes; here are some tips that helped us:
Simply wanting to make a change is a great start. So if you are reading this, you’ve past step one! But I will caution you – if you go into this thinking that changes will happen in a week, in a month, and that by “x time” you will all be fully converted, you may be setting yourself up for failure. What is one change that you can start with? Maybe, like me, you will just choose to not buy a product that you realize is not providing good nutritional value. Maybe you just stop buying the Goldfish. And anything with food dyes. Maybe you choose to swap out your white bread for whole wheat bread. And once you have accomplished that goal, you move on to another change. They don’t all have to happen at once.
Choose your level and don’t feel guilty
Listen up – for whatever reason, there are plenty of things that us parents feel guilty about (and that’s why I love Brene Brown). This should not be one of them. Maybe being 100% unprocessed is not realistic for your family. That’s ok!! Maybe your desired percentage is 80% unprocessed, and 20% flexibility. Like when you go to parties or out to eat – you’re okay with just going with what’s available. Decide what is realistic for you, and know that this may change at various times in your life. It’s all good!
Lead by example
You couldn’t possibly expect your kids to choose to snack on whole grain muffins or power balls if they were watching you snack on gummy bears or Doritos. Make it a family affair. Real food looks delicious, too, and having it out, available and having them see you eat it are all going to help your case.
Get them involved
I know you’re probably already familiar with this one, but it really is true. When my kids help make or bake a food, they are proud of their accomplishment and they want to enjoy it. Similarly, get them involved in gardening or the food shopping (have you read this post?) They are a part of this change and they should have input. Let them decide which vegetables to purchase, or what type of salad they fancy. Let them peruse the recipe books for real food recipes that you can make together, or at least which they can request that you prepare. Some nights I’ll do a salad bar or a sweet potato bar and my kids love having to have a choice. Help them learn to cook; give them the skill that will last a lifetime.
Don’t give up
If 5 years ago you would’ve told me that my (sniff-sniff) almost 13 year-old would not be eating her beloved white bread and bagels and that my kids actually would finally be turned off by Jif (referenced in my story here), I would’ve never believed it. Are they perfect? Not in ANY sense of the imagination. But have all of our choices improved? And do they have a better understanding of why? Absolutely. Will they always choose real food? I’m not sure. But for today, I’m doing my best with it and for that I am thankful.
Be proud of your accomplishments along the way, no matter how small they may seem. They are all a great step in the right direction.