How Do You Get a Child to Eat Healthfully?As a mom of three, I went through many years of the lunch nightmare. It goes something like this:
“Why didn’t you eat your lunch sweetie?”
“I didn’t like it – it was yucky.”
“But last week you said you loved it when I made the exact same thing.”
“I don’t know. I just don’t like it.”
Does that sound familiar?
Despite the fact that my children are now grown, that conversation feels like it happened yesterday. You want to feed your children well. You want them to eat what you feed them. And you want them to be healthy so that they can learn and do well in school. That can be a tall order. Add with a food sensitivity such as gluten, dairy, corn, soy... it can be, well, a nightmare. Hopefully this article will help. Over the years, I came up with several good ideas that got my kids through school with few illnesses, zero antibiotics, excellent GPAs, and they are now healthy adults who eat well.
Be Honest About Good NutritionBefore we get started I wanted to share a philosophy I utilize when dealing with children and changing their lifestyle and diet. I used this with my own children and those whom I have had the privilege to care for over the years. Treat them like adults. What I mean is that you should be honest and talk to children as you would talk to a close friend – don’t talk down to them. As an example, if you change from pepperoni to sliced organic chicken slices, let them know why.
Tell your child that the pepperoni has lots of chemicals and preservatives that will actually make his/her body sick. Obviously you don’t want that—and neither does he/she—so you are changing over to a cold cut that won’t create damage. If your child asks why his friend’s mother feeds his friend pepperoni (or other junk food), let your child know that his friend’s mom just might not know better. And of course, set a good example by eating well yourself.
Work with your child to slowly change his/her taste buds until they enjoy fresh fruit and good food. Yes, this will take time. Yes, there will be some periods of frustration. Yes, you do need to be tenacious. But it’s so very worth it. If you ask my children if they appreciated all my efforts to keep them healthy, they will respond with a resounding and grateful “yes”.
Don't Discuss Your Own Dislikes of FoodAnother suggestion is to try to avoid mentioning your own food dislikes. If you ‘hate’ certain vegetables that you know are healthy, don’t mention that to your children. Just purchase the healthiest vegetables, lightly cook them and serve them with a smile. Who knows? You might start to find some that you like! I can't tell you how many adults who rarely eat vegetables have told me that they don't eat them because their mother or father didn't like them. This is a shame and something we don't need to perpetuate.
Experiment: Try new things, especially ones involving healthy fruits and veggies. Good quality fruits and vegetables are delicious. Plus, your tastes change as you get older and as you get healthier. Something you didn’t like before you may find is quite tasty now. Keep trying new things!
10 Tips for Healthy Lunches1. When it comes to beverages stick with water.
I know that may be difficult at first, but it’s worth it to make the transition. If your child is stuck on juice, try the trick of diluting it more and more with purified water. If you’re subtle, they won’t notice. Concurrently let them know that you’ve learned that fruit is best eaten, rather than drunk, and you’ll be adding delicious organic sweet fruit to their lunch box along with water that is more hydrating. Further, as a clinical nutritionist, I should note that a vast majority of our population is dehydrated—children included. The body works much better when properly hydrated.
Hint: Make sure that the fruit you include is tasty. There’s no faster way of turning a child off from a fruit or vegetable than by giving them one that tastes bad.2. Make extra dinner from the night before that can be used for lunch. Whether it’s a pasta meal with meat and veggies, or a stir fry, or soup or chili, heat it in the morning and put it in a thermos that will keep it warm. If they liked it for dinner, they’ll like it for
lunch. Just don’t serve it AGAIN for dinner—you’ll have a mutiny!
Hint: Take organic kale and chop it very finely. Add it to soups, chili, tomato sauce, stir fry—everything. It’s so small that they won’t taste it, but it’s in there and very healthy3. Serve hummus.
It's a protein-rich dip that can be dipped into with celery sticks, carrot sticks, pieces of cucumber—or really any raw veggies of choice. Hummus is filling too.
4. Another option on celery sticks or apple and pear slices is almond butter or peanut butter. (I know that some schools "outlaw" peanuts if a child has a serious allergy, so consider other butters such as almond or cashew.)
5. For salad lovers: Some kids love salad, bless them, and you can just put the undressed salad in a Tupperware container and send the dressing separately. Salads are a great way to get a lot of veggies into your kids. Ours typically consists of organic spring green mix, arugula, celery, green or red onion, avocado, red cabbage, cucumber and tomatoes. You could add shredded carrot, zucchini, sunflower seeds, and more—have fun with it and change up the ingredients to keep it interesting.
6. Egg salad is a nice main course.
Just ensure that your container keeps it cold within their lunch box. I don’t recommend canned tuna, or much of any tuna, since the fish tends to have high mercury content. Definitely not good for developed nervous systems.
7. Cold cuts that have no chemicals or preservatives are good as "roll-ups"or on a sandwich.
Personally the only place I ever found "clean" cold cuts was Whole Foods, but check around and see what you find at your local grocer. The ingredients of the ones we used were only these 3: chicken/turkey, salt, water—that’s it! The only liability of these was that they would go bad within about 5 days due to the lack of preservatives. They're a good thing health-wise, but important to keep track of so you’re not throwing good food away.
Hint: If your child is addicted to bologna or salami, for example, Whole Foods likely has a healthier version you can switch to while you’re weaning to healthier options. The chemicals and preservatives in standard cold cuts put them squarely in the category of a Frankenfood—too far from the real thing to be ingested by a body that wants to be healthy.8.Serve fresh nuts and fruit, or raisins (or other dried fruit). Make sure all are organic and the nuts are raw or freshly dry roasted. Nuts roasted in oil are frequently rancid which is a bad fat; something you want to avoid.
9. There are some very healthy desserts you can make that are easy, raw (in many cases), and fun to make with your children.
Go online and search “fruit and nut balls” and you’ll find many, many options. They typically involve dates, a nut butter, dried fruit, coconut, fresh nuts, cocoa powder, etc. What makes them fun is that you can change up the ingredients to make them taste different so you don’t get bored. Try to avoid the ones with sugar or lots of chocolate. Believe me, the dates and other dried fruit will make it sweet enough, and these are very satisfying. We are trying to decrease the size of the sweet tooth—these healthy desserts will help.
10. Read labels—please!
It's so easy to grab the heavily processed, chemical filled, artificial "something" that your child wants because his friend has it or he saw it advertised on TV. Don't do it! Read the ingredients. If it's more than 5 ingredients, it's likely too heavily processed to be healthy. If it contains words that you don't have in your own pantry, such as "red dye" or "sodium benzoate", don't buy it—it's a Frankenfood. Such foods are addictive, fattening and inflammatory.—all things you want to avoid if you want a healthy body.
I hope this was helpful. Please write me back with any great ideas you have that we can share with other parents.
Is Your Child Gluten Sensitive?It is better to find out sooner than later—contact us at www.RootCauseMedicalClinic.com. If you have questions or need any help, I’m here for you! Call 408-733-0400.
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP
IFM Certified Practitioner
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”