January 16, 2016

Day 16: Kids and Nutrition

Children Jumping 

So you want to eat better and feel more healthy, right?  But you have kids. And everything you have been learning on our blog so far may go out the window in a quick hurry the first time you try to feed the kids a green salad or green smoothie. It may feel too exhausting to make your kids eat healthy and so why bother? Believe me, I know, we’ve been there. We’re still there. We’ve won many battles, but the war against refined sugar and processed foods is far from over.  

There are two things that children have ultimate control over from a very young age.  What they will actually swallow, and when they will poop. Trying to force either one of those two things is nearly impossible and will almost always result in tears…from the parent. We simply cannot exert absolute control over what our children eat without force feeding or starving them, both of which are crossing the line.

At the same time, I want to give you hope, encouragement, and confidence that it is possible for children to like healthy food and to turn down junk food. Just like ourselves, our children will never be perfect. And that’s ok. This is a journey.

Let me share with you a few popular homeschool principles coined by Olliver Demille of the Thomas Jefferson Leadership Education. The first is “Inspire, Not Require.” Don’t force your children to do things. If you want your children to read, let them see you reading. If you want them to be artistic, let them see you being artistic. Isn’t that the way that children of all species learn? They watch their parents and then mimic until they master it, often better than their parents.

The second principle is “You, not them.” The heart of this principle is again, you. Take care of you first. It’s like the instructions the stewards give you on an airplane. “Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” Get good, strong habits yourself and then you can begin helping your children. Your job is to steer your family in the right direction and try your best to be the leader and example of eating healthy foods and beverages. The rest will eventually work itself out.

So where can you start? Start with what you can control, you. Start with what you put into your mouth. The magic is that if you don’t buy it at the store, restaurant, or drive-through, then it won’t go into your mouth. You have the most influence about what food will make it into you house for the family to eat.

Of course there are exceptions. Some children are in daycare or with babysitters for much of the day. Most kids eat lunch at the school five days a week. And lots of you have teenagers who buy whatever food they want. These are battles that our family is not fighting…yet. But ultimately when the time comes, we will use the same principles and armor to protect ourselves and them against the fiery darts of the processed food industry that we are already discussing in every post on our blog.

It doesn’t matter how much healthy food you have in the house, kids will almost always default to the junkiest food they can find. If there are cookies in the home, that is what they are going to go for first. If you try to hide it from them, they will find it, or catch you sneaking, or will see the wrappers, or smell it on your breath. Believe me, that’s been the story of our last 6 years! We’ve been into healthy eating about 80% of the time, and tried to hide the other 20% from our kids the best we could. But they are little tiny beings of impeccable curiosity and intelligence. They know the real story of what’s going on. You’re not fooling them.

Kid climbing back into the wagon
When you fall off the wagon, you dust yourself off and climb back on.

Tips to Engage Your Family in Nutrition Goals

  • Get strong yourself before focusing on the kids. 
  • Stop buying the junk food and bringing it home. 
  • When you need a treat, make it a special occasion and eat it outside the home. Go out for ice-cream or fast food and eat it there, not even in the car. It will help them realize this is for special occasions and not everyday. 
  • Share your excitement, knowledge, and goals with the kids.  Explain why living healthy is a better choice and why you have decided to make some changes. 
  • Explain to your kids that you are going to fill the house with lots of healthy food options. Tell them that they are not going to starve or lack for food. 
  • Take your children shopping and let them each choose a fruit and vegetable for the family to try. You may be surprised when they actually enjoy trying new fruits and vegetables. Soon they may be the ones encouraging you! 
  • Instead of making the vegetable the main course, which may cause a mutiny, work the fruits and veggies into your meals as toppings that they can choose from. Set out 8 toppings (for example: olives, pineapple, green onions, mandarin oranges, nuts, beans, carrot shreds, and salad leaves) and have them each choose at least two to put on their rice, taco, or plate. 
  • Have the kids help prepare the fruits and vegetables and meals. It’s amazing how attached you get to the food that you have prepared yourself. 
  • Have your menu planned out a week or two in advance so that the kids know what meals are coming up. We are going to discuss menu and shopping planning tomorrow, Day 17, and I have a nice printable version ready for you. 
  • Praise your kids for eating healthy. Heap the praise on them. Gush and describe in detail how proud you are of them and how happy their body must be. This will help create happy and positive pathways in their brain that are connected to healthy food.
On Day 18, we are going to talk about a dozen books that contain recipes that have helped us on our journey. And next Wednesday, on Day 20, we are going to share 10 great snack ideas for kids.

Overall, we want you to go away today feeling empowered that you can do this. You and your family and can eat healthy. It’s just going to take some time and lots of baby steps. But you can really succeed at this goal. Let us know any questions or concerns that you have and we are more than happy to help talk you through it. We are in this together!

xo, Heather and Scott

#MoreFoodLessCrap #Kids #Food #NewYear #30DayHealthChallenge #Health #Fitness @MorFoodLessCrap 

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