Six Simple Steps To Supercharge Your Kids’ Health

Health

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

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COMMENTS
  • Avatar
    July 02, 2016

    I agree wholeheartedly with this! I worked as a dietitian at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, and Primary Children’s Hospital and the diseases we were seeing in young children, are commonly the ones expected in middle age adults! My mantra has always been, find what they like, get creative and slowly expand on it.

    • Avatar
      July 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Janet – and that’s so sad to hear young kids presenting with issues of the middle aged. I’m actually just sitting down now to rethink our diet ideas again now. Thanks for reading and hope summer has arrived in Alaska 🙂

  • Avatar
    July 06, 2016

    To piggy back on #6: Grow It, I’ve also found that most times I ask the (daycare) kids to help me to prepare meals, they’re more likely to eat it. If I let them pick the veggies that we’re going to have, instead of making that choice myself, they’re more likely to eat the veggies when they’ve helped me wash and steam them versus me picking what we’re eating and doing it myself.

    Notice that I did say “they’re more likely to eat it” not guaranteed to eat it 🙂 I’ve had a few situations in which I’ve had kiddos super pumped to help me out with lunch, but then they wouldn’t touch it when we made it to the table!

    • Avatar
      July 07, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Emily and so right – “more likely” is true! We’re away at the moment and last night our son discovered wild huckleberries – we were out foraging for over an hour, he loved it and ate a bucketload! But this morning it’s raining so now the berries he loved last night are “yucky” because they’re wet! The logic of a toddler hey! Thanks again for reading. Xx

  • Avatar
    August 22, 2016

    Hey Tracy,

    Been looking for some ideas for a post like this and stumbled across yours! Great read!

    I have taken a real proactive effort with my kids recently to help improve their diet – chia seeds, almond flour and coconut oil – the whole family is benefitting from great types of foods!
    Selina recently posted…10 Tips To Help Blossom Your Child’s Creativity

  • Avatar
    November 02, 2016
    Michelle

    Hi Tracy, loved your post. I recently started GAPS introduction diet with my 7 and 8 year old boys to heal some major digestive issues. I was completely convinced it would be disastrous from the start, but it’s been phenomenal. I can’t believe what they are eating. Loads of fermented foods, olive oil and ghee, masses of veges, eggs, loads of meat stock and now bone broth, and nut butter pancakes and almond bread. The only sweet thing they’ve had in over 5 weeks is pumpkin and carrots. They feel great. They ate pretty well before, but have adapted so well to this. I am just amazed and so proud of them. Their problems are resolving before my eyes. Michelle

  • Avatar
    May 10, 2017
    Anna

    Hi Tracy, would you please share a recipe (preparation method) for healthy chocolate chip cookies you mentioned above?

  • Avatar
    July 22, 2017

    Hello! Great article. I’m intrigued by the chocolate chip cookies you mention. A quick google is only bring up recipes that contain nut butter, which is no good for school. Could you please share the recipe for the chocolate chip cookies that you mentioned. Thank you!

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