As a parent, we want the best for our children and that includes making sure they are eating a well balanced, whole food diet. Our children deserve to be as healthy and nourished as possible (as do we)! But what do you do when your child won’t eat optimally or no longer likes the healthy foods they once enjoyed? Don’t panic! Here are some tips and suggestions to help you on your parenting journey.
First and foremost and I know I say this all the time, but it is so critical for children to see us eating what we want them to eat. If you want your child to eat healthy, more whole foods – not processed or man made – you must be the example and eat it as well. Children will do what you do.
Secondly, give your child a sense of autonomy and allow them to choose between healthy options. This is done with limited choices, however. If you give your child too many options, they will become overwhelmed and not be able to choose at all. It’s best to give max three choices (I personally like to give two). This can be done in the grocery store and/or in the kitchen. Ask your child, “Would you like to enjoy carrots or beans?” Children are just like us in that if they feel like they have a say in their decision, t hey are more likely to follow through.
Thirdly, use food as leverage. This is something I do all the time with my three year old son. If for example, your child likes crackers, serve a few crackers and then before giving more, offer them a vegetable or protein source that optimizes their nutrition and then give them more crackers as soon as they eat say two bites of broccoli.
Fourthly, make it a game. This is critical in getting kids to eat anything. A game I like to play is “What character matches the food.” To play, have your child name their favourite tv character after the food they just made or you just made. For example, you could make a green smoothie and have them call it the ‘Hulk’s drink’ and I’m the hulk (child being hulk)! Or you could say fun things like “Do you think (insert favourite character’s name) eats cauliflower to give him big, big muscles or cool magic powers?” Planting the seeds of health through games is key to success in the kitchen and in life!
Lastly and most importantly, the goal is to create healthy, nourishing habits early so they are instilled at a young age rather than having to do a ton of work later. Your goal is not to be perfect and have a perfect child who eats perfectly; your goal is to be an empowered parent doing the best you can which is what your child will see and ultimately emulate.
We are all doing the best we can with what we know. Parenting, just like life, is a constant evolution and change will happen everyday so even if your child isn’t eating tomatoes right now, that doesn’t mean he or she won’t tomorrow (and if that happens, be prepared for that to change to)!
First Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/8412940480/
Natasha Grey has her Master’s degree in Psychology and has worked as a Child and Family Therapist ever since. She is a wife and mother who currently resides in Ottawa, Canada. Natasha’s life purpose and passion is to help children and adults become the very best they can be.
Constantly inspired and learning, Natasha has spearheaded the creation of “Everyday Superheroes” (http://www.everydaysuperheroes.ca/) to help inspire and teach children and adults everywhere that there is a Superhero within us all.
Natasha and her husband, Casey Grey, are hosts of "The Conscious Living Podcast with Casey+Natasha" (http://caseyplusnatasha.com/) where they interview inspirational and motivational people from all over the world who are living a conscious life - a life with a purpose and on purpose. You will learn everything from how to find your purpose to how to be a conscious parent, to what’s the healthiest paint you should use on your walls!
Natasha is also passionate about empowering women and their families to view child birth as a natural, healthy, beautiful experience for all. She and her husband created a video of their home birth to demonstrate that home birth is a healthy option (with the proper team in place) for those looking for a hospital alternative.