Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tips for Helping Kids Eat Healthier

"The most comprehensive survey done on this topic, a University of Michigan report that examined how American children spent their time between 1981 and 1997, discovered that the amount of time children spent eating meals at home was the single biggest predictor of better academic achievement and fewer behavioral problems. Mealtime was more influential than time spent in school, studying, attending religious services, or playing sports." - The Secrets of Happy Families

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Wow. I know we lead busy lives, but that is powerful. Mealtimes are so important, but so many times it can feel like a struggle. “What do I make? I don’t have time to cook! My kids won’t eat anything I make! Healthy food is so expensive!”

I’ve heard all of those a million times…and probably said them myself a few times too! I don’t have all the answers, but I hope to at least offer a few tips/suggestions. Some are tried & true in the Butler house, and some are brand new ideas we are going to work on.

Wives+ mamas, we are the nutritional gatekeepers of our home. Instead of viewing that as a burden, we have to shift our perspective and look at that as an awesome responsibility! We can choose to make it a journey rather than something that overwhelms or annoys us. Our attitude in how we approach our family’s nutrition makes all the difference! And if there is anything I know about nutrition, it is one of the most powerful aspects we can control regarding our health and the health of our children.

Did you know…this is the first generation of kids not expected to outlive their parents?? As in, if we don’t make some changes, we will be burying our children some day. (I know that sounds dark, but it is our sad reality and sometimes I think you have to share something in a way like that to understand the severity of the issue.) I don’t know about you, but I assume you are probably with me on this…I am just NOT.OKAY with that statistic. Friends, we have to do better. When we know better, we do better. And that doesn’t mean it’s easy, but there aren’t many greater investments we can make.  It is worthy of our best time and attention.

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I recently listened to an awesome lecture from an expert in this area (which I certainly am NOT), so I wanted to pass along some of the tips I heard from her that I plan to start implementing (as well as I few I already do & some AWESOME tips from wise mamas in our Healthy Mama/Healthy Kiddo Hacks FB group!).

Tips for getting kiddos to eat healthier:
1. Involve them! Of course this isn’t a guarantee, but studies show they’re at least more likely to eat it if they have a hand in preparing it. Involve them in the whole process. Planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, seasoning. Takes longer, a little messier, but LOTS of benefits! Quality time + they’re learning + more likely to eat it.

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2. Sneak it in. Try veggie noodles. Add veggies to muffins, omelets, stews/soups, casseroles, etc.

3. Smoothies & juice! My kids love to help with both of these & it’s a great way to get in some great foods they wouldn’t ordinarily eat.

4. Offer it every time. Maybe you offer something 30 times & the 31st time they actually try it! Maybe it takes 60 times, but they end up loving collard greens or spinach salad or kale chips on the 61st time? Keep offering! Again, not a guarantee, but worth the effort to offer it.

5. Be the example. Eat healthy yourself & talk about enjoying healthy foods. Talk to your kids about how much better you feel when you eat nutritious foods! We can enjoy treats, but not all the time because they can make us feel yucky.

6. “Smell/lick/taste.” When offering something new, give them the option to either smell, lick, or taste the food.

7. Choose your battles. You cannot force a child to chew and swallow, so this is a power struggle you could potentially lose. Make sure you don’t make that mistake. At 3ish, kids are testing boundaries just for the sake of testing them. Just keep that in mind.

8. Don’t be a short order cook. Don’t make them separate “kid foods” or they’ll always be a picky eater. But, you can still give them options and let them take ownership. For example, when we make homemade pizzas, they choose what toppings they want.

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9. Watch out offering snacks too close to meal time. (Or after a meal time if they chose not to eat what you made.) They’re more likely to eat whatever you give them when they’re really hungry.

10. Offer the healthiest stuff first. Sometimes I’ll chop veggies & set them out with Greek yogurt ranch or sliced apple wedges or a puréed soup for them to snack on while I’m finishing up dinner.

11. Make homemade treats. I don’t believe in depriving your children, but i can make a homemade version of something & it is MUCH healthier that way!! Homemade pancakes, muffins, protein bites, cookies, etc. I let them help me too. They take so much pride in it & love to Share what they make with others.

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12. They don’t know what they don’t know, so hold off on the junk as long as possible. It can change their taste buds. I will never forget that Jase did not want cake on his first birthday because he’d never had anything with sugar. Clearly I ran a tighter ship when I just had one…Ha!

13. Give family members healthy options/suggestions. This is probably the toughest scenario because many loved ones (especially grandparents) like to show love through treats. I don’t want to be a dictator, so i just try to make sure they eat as healthy as possible during the time they are with me. Could I stand my ground and win that battle? Sure. But my husband and I (mostly him) agreed it’s better to just ride it out. Still, there are some things I do have to watch. When my oldest has too many grains/sugar or my littlest has too much dairy, I see asthma + eczema flair. My husband has too, so he is more on board now with trying to guard that. Anyway, if you just give them some ideas for healthier options, they’re usually very happy to comply and still feel like they’re spoiling them!

14. Really focus on good fats!! Very, very important for developing brains!!


15. Many kiddos have slight allergies to gluten. Try to eat real, whole foods as often as possible. (Also, our littles’ digestive systems are NOT able to digest grains the way adults are, and this is one of the reasons I do not give rice cereal or oatmeal in a bottle. We prefer Baby Led Weaning, but you definitely want to read the book before pursuing this method.) We make our own bread too usually so I just leave the gluten out.

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16. Kids are supposed to have less than 25 g of sugar a day. Many kids are getting this all at breakfast! Make sure they’re not drinking their sugar allowance either. (Sports drinks, soft drinks, many juice boxes, lemonade, etc. are all PACKED with sugar!)

17. I have my kiddos sit at the table to eat. Not in front of a tv or tablet. I want them to know their hunger cues. I don’t make them clean their plate, but i do sometimes encourage them to take “one more bite” or two more bites of something.

18. Try different ways of preparing a particular food. Kale salad...baked kale chips...sautéed kale...kale & banana smoothies. You might find they like it prepared one way but won’t touch it another way. My boys LOVE sweet potatos & kale baked in this way, but sauteed kale or even a baked sweet potato? Prob not happening!

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19. Offer the food buffet style and let them make their own plate. Have them choose one of everything, and at least try everything before allowing seconds.

20. Have them help set the table.

21. Eat outside!

22. Try the "love it, like it, learning it" approach where you eliminate saying we don't like it & rather saying it's a “learning it” food.

23. Be sure to offer something familiar too when you’re offering a new dish.

24. Try shopping at a Farmer’s Market, local farm, and Aldi. I also LOVE Thrive Market & save a ton there!

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25. When eating out, choose the healthiest options you can find. We like Moe’s/Chipolte, Zoe’s, Taziki’s, Natural Juice Cafe, & Panera.

26. Avoid transferring preferences or making assumptions about what they might like/dislike! For example, just because I HATE olives (gag!) doesn’t mean my kiddos will. Still offer it, let them try it, and don’t talk about how much I hate olives in front of them.

27. Make your food FLAVORFUL!! Eating healthy doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be bland. Add lots of herbs/spices, healthy salt, quality butter, etc.

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28. Try giving them a dip! My boys will eat almost any veggie if they can dip it in Greek yogurt ranch. You can get creative here, but try offering a dip.

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29. Don’t get all cray about the mess. Let them make memories with you in the kitchen, and make it a JOYFUL time! Crank up some Pandora. Laugh with your babies. Double check their measuring. Winking smile 

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**Unrelated, but I also have them ask to be excused before they get up, and they put their plate/utensils in the sink. Teach em young, right? Raising great adults!

Best advice I’ve got- start small. Choose something from the list you can start with, and just do that. Believe it or not, I am not as hard core as you might think. i just can’t control everything and it’s not worth stressing over, so I do the best I can as often as I can. I do consider it a responsibility though, so I do try to be conscientious and mindful of what I’m feeding my family. I am always seeking to learn in this area so I can make it a part of my normal life & routine (and don’t even have to think about it anymore.)

**One more last minute tip to save you time/money & it is DELISH!!

Here’s how i kill several birds with one stone. (Punny, right??) Cook one whole organic chicken (from trusted source) in crockpot. I love this Bragg’s seasoning because it adds so much flavor! I also add organic carrots & celery about 1.5 hours before it’s done.) Then I use 1/2 the meat for dinner one night, and use the rest to make chicken noodle soup or chicken & rice (with organic Sprouted rice from Thrive Market) for the next night. I also use the bones (2x) to make homemade bone broth. **Watch for bones when pulling the chicken apart.

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