As a mother of two, I fully understand the challenge of helping your kids stay on track with their food when they are surrounded by unhealthy options as soon as they walk out your door. From the moment kids start school, it can feel like a losing battle. No matter how well you are feeding them at home, the allure of cookies, chips, fast food and pizza can be overwhelming. So can the pressure to fit in with their peers, and a child who eats differently can be the target of unwanted attention. So what to do?
Talk to Your Kids About Food
If you are new to whole foods, macrobiotics or healthy eating in general, it’s important to tell your kids you’re trying something new, and why. Older children and teens may be more resistant to the change, and you might need to appeal to their vanity. Telling a teen that “This will help your skin clear up” or “This will help your performance in sports” is sometimes more effective than touting the health benefits of a new diet.
Pick Your BattlesAt some point you have to recognize that you can’t monitor everything your child eats, so make sure that the choices available at home are good ones. If a child is raised on good, wholesome food, his/her body retains the memory of what that food feels like. Straying from the norm is almost inevitable as our kids grow up and begin to assert their separateness, but the good news is that they eventually return to wanting to eat well, because it feels better.
Offer Good Alternatives
Assume that treats are readily available in school, and limit sweets to fresh and dry fruit, healthy desserts like Spiced Apple Kanten or Jam Dots, and the occasional splurge. Buy organic chips with no artificial flavorings or ingredients. Have carrots, celery, almond butter and hummus available for a before-dinner snack. Your kids may gripe, but if they’re hungry they’ll eat what is made available to them.
Cook TogetherKids love to help out with cooking and baking, so encourage their participation. Give them age appropriate tasks, and let them stir and taste what’s being made. Teaching our kids how to cook gives them a relationship with the food they eat, and is a gift that lasts a lifetime.
Work with What Your Children LikeChange is hard for all of us; so don’t expect your kids to convert overnight. Build on the good, and gradually phase out the not so good. If your child will only eat broccoli for a vegetable, introduce very small quantities of other vegetables for him/her to try. Salad is a food that most kids enjoy; so add extra veggies to the bowl. If your child rejects brown rice, try mixing brown and white together for a while until he/she gets used to the change of flavor and texture. Make sure every meal involves at least one food your child likes. Be patient.
The Tasting Rule
Trying to persuade a kid of any age to eat tempeh can be a huge challenge, so play it smart. Many kids will say, “I don’t like it” before they’ve ever tried a new food, so introduce new foods gradually, and make a tasting rule. Insist that they try a new food at least once before condemning it. Some foods will stay on the bad list, but others will be judged “not bad”, and in time may even be enjoyed.