Did you know that the average toddler says the phrase "I'm hungry" more than 465 times per day? The statistic may be a slight exaggeration, but any mama of little ones will agree that this phrase is over-used daily! Kids LOVE to eat. But, the ironic part is that as much as kids love eating, they really hate a lot of foods…
Of course the little ones weren't always picky eaters. When they were babies, they were the world's healthiest eaters! They were weaned on super-foods. Avocado by the handful! Salmon by the mouthful! Broccoli for breakfast! Mama, you were winning! And then, the tots grew up a bit, and seemed to outgrow their healthy eating habits too...
So here you are now, with a child that has become a challenge to feed. Sure your kid is still hungry, but not for what you are making! They want their food on their terms. The tastes and textures that they loved yesterday are now making them cry at the supper table. If the meals aren't abundant in noodles, served atop of bread, or swimming in melted cheese - they can't even deal. So what is a healthy mama to do? How are you supposed to nourish these growing little bodies that refuse what is being offered? Continually seeing those thoughtfully plated efforts being dumped out, spit out, and thrown out is enough to make any mom feel downright defeated.
Well mamas, take note. I am here to encourage you with some GREAT news. There are a few simple ways to get your kids eating healthier. I'm not talking about you spending countless hours slaving over pots and pans in the kitchen, because mama doesn't have time for that! I am talking basic, practice, and helpful tips that may help your little ones to eat a more balanced and nourishing diet.
SIX WAYS TO GET YOUR KIDS EATING HEALTHIER FOODS:
- Get those kids in the kitchen with you!
Did you know that kids are far more likely to try eating something new if they are involved in creating it? It's true. Having kids prepare snacks and meals with you not only gives them something to do (kids love "helping"), but it also increases their knowledge and understanding of REAL food. Every colour of the rainbow can be found in fruits and vegetables alone. Have fun with that! Let them measure and stir ingredients. Let them taste, feel, wash and peel vegetables. Show them that real food doesn't have ingredients, but that real food IS the ingredients that make up meals that we eat; then combine these foods together in different and delicious ways.
- Make their snacks count
Kids love to snack... ALL OF THE TIME!! So use these opportunities to deliver more goodness. By choosing to offer more whole foods and less packaged foods at snack-time, you are helping your little ones develop a palate and a taste for true flavour. Whole foods are foods in their natural state (fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, eggs, good-quality organic and uncured chicken, beef, or fish). There is definitely a time and a place for packaged snacks, but limit them. It will make your life easier in the long run! The less added salt, sugar, and artificial flavours they are consuming, the better your home-cooked meals, and all whole foods are going to taste.
- Limit refined sugar
Kids love treats. Who can blame them? Treats are the best and we all need to live a little! The trouble is, most "treats" are laden with (refined) white sugar. White sugar is addicting and it often leaves our children grumpy and wanting more. So bake at home, and cut out a ton of refined sugar in the process! There are so many recipes online that use honey, maple syrup, or medjool dates as the sweetener instead of refined sugar. These refined sugar-free goodies may not always be the healthiest option, but they are treats after all. Balance, mamas!
- Let them choose
Kids don't get to control much of their day. They really feel excited when they get to make some choices. So put out a mixed plate at mealtime. If all of the offerings are nourishing, then they really can't go wrong! The same goes for your kitchen- if your pantry and fridge are stocked with healthy foods, then your kids can only make good decisions when they go wandering for a snack.
- Hide the veggies, but don't be a sneaky chef!
Let the kids see you blending spinach into their pancakes and roasted peppers into their spaghetti sauce. We don't want to be making them believe that they are never eating vegetables. We want them to know that they are eating vegetables in these delicious ways, and that even with the veggies added, the foods that they love still taste delicious.
- Let HUNGER be the sauce
They say that hunger makes great sauce, and I agree! When our children come hungry to the table, the foods being offered go down much easier! If they have been snacking close to mealtime, then they are far pickier and will likely decline anything that looks remotely like a vegetable!
- Incorporate healthy eating into your own life
As with anything that we hope to teach our kids, our strongest influence will come from what we DO and not just what we say. Let your littles see you set the example! Eat less processed and more whole foods yourself. If we are enjoying whole, real foods to nourish our bodies every day... they are going to catch on. Eat well together. Whole foods for the whole family. Whole family food. It's possible, I promise! It starts with us.
I hope that you feel encouraged in the possibilities ahead. Your kids will learn to love healthy foods; maybe not all at once, but that is totally okay! I believe that picky eating is just one of the many challenges that come with raising little ones. And as with every other challenge that we face, we mamas just need to do our best, and allow plenty of grace for both our children- and ourselves- in the process. These little ones have our hearts, so let's nurture them well, nourish them well, and cherish them with all that we have got.
With love from my kitchen to yours,
5 recipes to help get you started:
- Plant-powered quinoa pizza balls
These are tasty bite-sized nutritional powerhouses! And with "pizza" in the name, you can be sure that the little ones will be intrigued.
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 T tomato paste
1 T marinara sauce
3 tbsp nutritional yeast or 1/3 cup cheese
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
1 egg, or 2 egg whites
1 shredded carrot and 1 cup chopped spinach, sautéed slightly and wilted
2T @manitobaharvest hemp hearts
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine all of the above and form into balls
- Bake on parchment- lined baking sheet at 350 for 20 minutes
- Serve with cucumber, snap peas, and marinara sauce for dipping
- recipe inspired by @organicfoodforkids
- Hidden (but not a secret!) veggie muffins
Super easy muffins that come together in the blender! Tip: ✔️bake them with your kiddies to show them that veggies aren't scary, but actually delicious! We want the kiddies to watch the veggies blend into the muffins, we don't want them to believe that they are never eating vegetables... that won't help us raise adventurous healthy eaters!! 🤓 It's all a science, feeding the kids
9 @ndmedjool pitted dates - softened for 10 mins in warm water then drained
3/4 cup finely shredded zucchini
1/2 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup unsweetened #organic applesauce
2 cups blanched almond flour
1.5 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2T @salbachia chia seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350F and grease 12-count muffin tin- or use parchment liners
- Grate zucchini and carrot and lay in paper towel to absorb moisture. Squeeze them in paper towel to remove excess moisture and set aside
- Combine eggs, applesauce, and dates in food processor and mix for 30 seconds
- Add in the almond flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and chia seeds and blitz for about 15 seconds
- Stir in walnuts and shredded veggies
- Pour into muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full
- Bake for approx 25 mins, or until cooked through
- Transfer to baking rack and use ALL willpower to wait until they cool, before eating. Hope you LOVE them as much as we do!
- recipe inspired by @againstallgrain
- Banana-bread porridge
The creamiest and most delicious way for the whole family to start the day. Serves one adult, or one very hungry toddler!
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup milk (almond, dairy... any will work!)
1 T egg whites, or one whole egg (egg whites offer a milder flavour in the oats and are a great source of protein!)
1 T chia seeds
1/2 banana, sliced
Optional toppings for porridge: shredded coconut, cinnamon, hemp hearts, dates, maple syrup
- Cook 1/2 cup rolled oats with 1 cup organic almond milk (or any milk!). Bring to boil, then simmer and stir until liquid absorbed
- Once oats are cooked, stir in 1T of egg whites (or more if it's for mama 🐻!) and turn up heat, stirring constantly until the egg whites fluff up and cook
- Turn off heat, stir in 1T@salbachia seeds and let it sit for 5 mins
- Top with cinnamon, hemp hearts, banana slices, raw walnuts, and a chopped medjool date. DELICIOUS!
- Crockpot orange sesame chicken
Chinese take-out; as in, let's TAKE-OUT all of those questionable ingredients in Chinese food! Prep this in the morning, and let your slow cooker do the rest.
3 chicken breasts, diced up in large 2" squares**
1/3 cup coconut aminos (or low-sodium tamari or low-sodium soy sauce)
1/4 cup of honey (or 1/3 if you like things on the sweeter side)
2 tablespoons of orange juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Garnish- @manitobaharvest hemp hearts
- Place largely diced chicken breasts in crock pot
- In a small bowl mix remaining ingredients to form sauce
- Pour sauce over chicken and stir. Cook in crockpot on low for 4 hours
- Steam some broccoli and kale and toss into crockpot- or serve on the side--picky kids need it IN the irresistible sauce!
- Serve on a bed of brown jasmine rice or cauliflower rice
- recipe credit @againstallgrain
- 4-ingredient chia- raspberry jam
Nobody will be able to tell that you have ditched the sugar and up'd the fibre in their beloved PB and J sandwich ;)
3 cups fresh raspberries
3-4 T pure maple syrup
2T chia seeds
1 tsp pure vanilla (optional)
- Place 3 cups @driscollsberry raspberries in pot with 3-4T pure maple syrup and bring to simmer over medium- high heat, stirring often
- Reduce heat to low simmer for 5 mins. Mash berries with fork- leaving some whole, for texture
- Add 2T @salbachia chia seeds and stir thoroughly until combined. Keep simmering over low heat for 15 more minutes, stirring frequently
- Remove from heat and stir in a tsp pure vanilla extract ..optional addition - It will make it 4 ingredient
Enjoy with porridge, yogurt, pancakes, toast, or any other place that you would otherwise use store-bought jam! ⭐️ Store in fridge in airtight container for up to 2 weeks!
- recipe credit: @ohsheglows
Any other healthy recipe ideas you know kids will love? Share the links below in the comments!