Evidence shows that giving your child the right nutrients can actually raise their IQ, enhance school performance, and bolster a healthy immune system; setting them up for lifelong health. Growing up is difficult emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually and children need us to show them the way to live a healthy life. No matter what you’ve been told children do what you do, you eat healthy so do they, you exercise they realize the importance of exercise, and you take care of your mental and spiritual health they will too. Therefore, the most important thing you can do to make sure your children grow up to be healthy adults, is model what a healthy adult does.
Get your kids in on the program! Children aren’t stupid, they don’t want to be sick and they don’t like going to doctors anymore than we do! Of course, the easiest way to accomplish this is to start from day one. However, if you didn’t it’s not to late!! Most important is don’t get overwhelmed and don’t overwhelm them, take it one day at a time. With my children, when they had been introduced to all the foods, in baby food form, to make sure they didn’t have food Allergies, I fed them what we ate. I grew up on a farm and we always had a big garden, so I naturally like and eat most vegetables. My husband grew as an Air Force kid moving all over the world, now when I hear I think, “Oh, he eats lots of different ethical foods and all sorts of things!” NOT SO! He is one of the pickiest eaters I have ever met. His dad was a pilot and away from home a lot, so his mom did what many single moms do, feed them what was easiest to cook and clean up after. I don’t blame her, raising 4 children mostly on your own is extremely difficult!
I always thought our different upbringing was the reason we eat the way we do, but as often happens my children taught me this was not the correct assumption. Our oldest daughter loved fruits and vegetables, but mostly fruits from the time she started eating adult foods. She would beg for any and all fruits she saw in the grocery store, our second daughter loved vegetables and likewise begged for vegetables, but didn’t care for fruits much and would not eat candy! Hummmm…I eat most fruits and vegetables and love most of both, so I was modeling healthy eating and they both ate healthy foods, just had a strong preference of their own. Then along came our son, I did the same things with him as our daughters. I introduced him to all the food I ate, but the older he got the more he began to show me he wasn’t going to be the healthy, compliment eater my girls were.
He loves sugar, I mean loves, loves, loves! He will eat a salad or an apple pie, but that’s about it! This was going to be a point of contention with us! So maybe there’s more to it than modeling good behavior and introducing them to healthy foods early. Maybe there was an underlying “genetic bent” to the foods we like and eat. I do believe that, but I also know that’s not the end of the story. Take my husband for example, he now eats more vegetables than he ever has. Why is that? Because I nagged and bugged him, no! Because I did the shopping and cooking and I cooked the things I grew up on and eventually he decided to try this or that and it wasn’t as bad as he thought. Does he eat like I would like for him to, no, but he eats a lot better than he did and he sees the benefits of that.
So what’s a parent supposed to do? What if you didn’t model healthy habits from the start, you have a picky eater, or a child that leans towards one food group? It’s never to late to start, start changing your habits and the family will usually follow. Here are some more tips to help:
Keep it simple! Let kids help in growing, preparing their food. Even if you just have a planter with a cucumber, tomato, squash, or corn (this is a good one to start with, most kids like corn) plant. If they put in the time to get dirty planting, watering, weeding, and caring for plants they will be more excited to try the “fruits of their labor”. It doesn’t take much space, time or energy to grow a plant or two. Let them pick the crop and help in preparing it for dinner. Let them take pride in sharing with the family and they will be much more likely to try new produce. I did this with my son. We had a small garden in the back yard and planted a short row of several vegetables. We had cherry tomatoes and once my son tried one right off the vine, he was hooked! At two I would catch him in the garden with a mouthful of tomatoes. Then the next winter I bought tomatoes in the grocery store, after popping one in his mouth he told me don’t buy this kind anymore! There’s a world of difference in homegrown and store bought.
Sneak vegetables and fruit into their foods anywhere you can. Soups, salads, stews, and tomato based sauces. These are all great ways to get them to try something new. I know these are usually long cook items but get a slow cooker and throw it together before bed, turn it on when you leave in the morning, and when you get home…home cooked dinner. It’s just to easy now days not to! Precut meats, vegetables, and pre made seasoning packets, it’s just a matter of throwing it all together.
Keep only healthy, nutritious, foods in the house. If there’s junk food and you get hungry enough, you’ll try healthy foods. They will too! You can’t control what they are exposed to at school or a friends house but, you do control what comes in the house, so only nutritious foods at home. They should only have nutritious choices at home. That’s good for you too! Although I always had my “emergency” stash of chocolate, for those stressful days I needed a special treat.
There is nothing wrong with a treat. The thing that makes treats bad is to many of them and having them to often. Make a deal, if you eat these healthy foods all week we will go out for ice cream on Friday. It gives them a goal and an accomplishment they can be proud of themselves for. It also gives them some control over their body, which is important. They need to know they get to choose, but also understand by choosing they are also choosing wellness or sickness. Choosing to take care of yourself keeps you healthy and out of the doctor’s office! And we all want that!!
Some other tips to introduce: (Make introductions slowly, nothing makes us want to rebel more than everything changing all at once!)
~Get them to drink water, yes plain water. Put it in a special cup, drink it out of a hose or faucet. Add some lemon (Myers Lemons are sweeter), slice some fruits or vegetables out of their garden or that they picked out in the store or farmers market. Make it interesting and fun.
~Remember children have extraordinary sensitive taste buds. Everything they eat is very vivid to them, so it may take awhile to grow accustomed to the taste of a new food. Give them lots of variety and choices so they can find where their preferences lie.
~Get only organic fresh fruits and vegetables. Children are susceptible to toxins, so if you can’t afford organic in any other area, make a way to get organic when it comes to raw Whole Foods. Continued exposure to chemicals and pollutants isn’t good for anyone, but especially not for kids. They are closer to pollutants just because they spend more time on the floor or in the grass, that’s where more pollutants are. So keep their environment as toxin free as you can. You can’t always control what’s in the grass or on the floors they are on, but control what you can!
Again, you are the most important person where your children’s health is concerned. Model healthy behaviors, don’t go to fast with changes, let them help, and give them some choices and control. Even if your children are older and you didn’t get off to a great start, put one or two of these tips into action and go from there. If you start small and go slow they will not make as big a fuss and you’ll all be healthier physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritual for it!!