Healthy. Organic. Local. Home made.
When we fantasize about how we’d like our children to eat we’re inevitably frustrated and disappointed when the reality looks a little different. Our intentions are noble; to give them the best start in life so their health thrives. But, our fast-paced modern day lives, the cost of nourishing foods and the discriminatory nature of young children add up and spell despair for many of us.
The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports fries make up 25% of children’s vegetable intake, making the humble potato the most commonly consumed vegetable by our kids. I’ve read this statistic a bunch of times and yet, every time I do I feel shock, disappointment and empathy for fellow parents.
It can feel like a never ending battle as we endeavour to protect our kid’s health. Next to sleep, its the topic I discuss most with other parents on my quest to find new ways to elevate my son’s health. I’m grateful the vast majority of his diet is healthy, which is largely due to many of the up-nourishing strategies I’ve discovered along the way – I hope they help your family too.
1. DISGUISE IT
My little man “hates” avocado but he eats it every day – blended into his smoothie: the ultimate weapon for disguising all kinds of superfoods.
Start by finding a base your child enjoys and then get creative and add to it from there. Our two favourites are frozen banana with chocolate almond milk and coconut water with frozen mango. To the base I add a selection of the following: frozen berries, hemp hearts, collagen powder, dates, ground pumpkin and flax seeds, spinach, kale, nuts, avocado, hemp or coconut oil, fish oil (this strawberry flavoured one is brilliant), probiotic powder, agave and nut butter.
2. REPLACE IT
Reimagine healthier versions of the meals your child already enjoys. Replace french fries with home made sweet potato fries. Substitute the flour in choc chip cookies with almond meal or ground pumpkin seeds. Replace table salt with himalayan rock salt. Replace sugar in baking with maple syrup.
A couple of examples of favourites we’ve reimagined are pancakes and chocolate chip cookies. We’ve replaced regular or even a gluten-free flour with buckwheat flour and in place of cow’s milk we use coconut or almond milk. Buckwheat is a grain free superfood, high in easily digestible protein and is a rich source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Here’s a recipe to get you started.
One of our go-to snacks are healthy chocolate chip cookies made with five basic ingredients: mashed banana, ground pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, maple syrup and choc chips. Super simple and much healthier than packaged cookies. Another favourite recipe which replaces chocolate chip cookies are Protein Blondie Squares made with chickpeas – my son devours these!
3. SUPERCHARGE IT
We add our favourite greens powder to fruit smoothies and our little man now prefers green smoothies to any other colour – after all, dinosaurs drink green smoothies, didn’t you know! I’d love him to get all his antioxidant and immune-boosting nutrition directly from vegetables but until that day comes (which I’m guessing is a long way off) I feel reassured knowing he’s getting the equivalent of ten serves of vegetables in one smoothie.
On our mission to cure our son’s eczema I recently discovered the healing properties of bone broth. I’m vegetarian so I can’t quite stomach making it myself so we buy grass-fed, organic frozen bone broth locally. It’s also available online as a flavoured protein powder which can be added to smoothies. Chock full of amino acids, collagen, gelatin, proline, glycine and easily absorbable minerals it can replace stock in just about any recipe.
4. SHARE IT
One of the best purchases we’ve made for our son is his learning tower. It was expensive but so worth it – he uses it every day. It lives in our kitchen, making daily migrations from the end of our bench, to the juicer, coffee grinder and sink for doing dishes. He loves cracking eggs, cutting bananas, baking cookies, juicing fruit and vegetables, making smoothies and plunging coffee with his Dad.
Giving our little man the freedom to help prepare our meals fuels his enthusiasm for tasting what he’s created.
5. PLAY WITH IT
After fighting losing battles with our three-year-old to sit at the dinner table, I’ve temporarily surrendered and I feel a huge sense of relief. For now, my priorities are to get some nutrition into him and for my husband and I to have more than five seconds of peace to eat a semi-hot meal. I have faith that in time it will change, but for now, it’s working. We have a few favourite places for eating – on our back step in the sun, at our wooden table on the deck and at his small Montessori table in the kitchen.
I’m probably breaking even more rules here, but I can’t help it – it’s too much fun. I’m a huge fan of Lawrence Cohen and his book Playful Parenting and since rereading it recently I’m incorporating play into almost every challenging parenting situation.
If my son isn’t eating I take a spoonful of his dinner and in slow motion I pretend I’m about to eat his food. It makes him giggle every time and more importantly he quickly gobbles up the spoonful of food before I even get close. Last night he ate between hoops as we played basketball outside . Another night he ate dinner while digging dirt and playing with his trucks.
I believe surrounding our experiences of food with positivity, rather than frustration and making it social (even if it’s not an adult version of social) will lead to a healthy relationship with food.
6. GROW IT
We have a strawberry plant on our deck and for the last month our little guy has been checking it on a daily basis, patiently waiting for the berries to turn red before picking them and wolfing them down in one mouthful. He LOVES strawberries, but only from our garden.
He picks and devours wild blackberries, but won’t touch them if they’re from the store. I’m hoping one day soon he’ll make the connection but for now we’re embracing his love of the garden and filling it with raspberries, blueberries and more strawberries.
KEEP IT REAL
Eating nourishing foods and caring for our bodies is the only way to long lasting vibrant health – relying on medicines and surgery will not make our children healthy. We have an incredible opportunity to pass down nourishing traditions, attitudes and rituals which will nurture our children throughout their entire lives.
Although we’re more time poor than ever and grabbing for convenient, packaged foods is tempting, the more we can resist and cook from scratch, with whole food ingredients, the healthier our children will be. They say we either make the time now to be healthy, or make the time later to be ill. Either way we’ll be spending the time. I hope some of these strategies may help up-nourish your kids and I’d love to hear from you below in the comments – how do you keep your kids healthy? Do you have any secrets to share?
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates
Some of the above links are affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase, I may earn a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. This helps me pay for my website so thank you so much.