Fussy. Picky. Choosy. Conscientious decision maker on food. Whatever you want to call it, MOST kids go through it at some stage and from what I hear it can make for some U.G.L.Y battles.
Many people go to great lengths to hide vegetables in other foods to boost nutrition without their children knowing. To be frank, I think this is a BAD idea. Sure throw greens in a smoothie or grate vegetables into a sauce, but let your children help so that they are aware they are getting them. Disguising food does not encourage life-long healthy eating habits.
1. Add spices and fresh or dried herbs to everything. These suckers are potent! You do not need a lot to get a boost of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
- Sweet spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, allspice can be added to yoghurt, smoothies, custards, hot chocolate. Even just a smidgen of spice is better than none. It also helps expand a child’s palate for new flavours.
- Adding fresh coriander and parsley to guacamole along with ground cumin.
- Natural yoghurt with dill, onion and garlic powder, lemon juice and sea salt is the BEST savoury dip for crackers, crisps or vegetable sticks.
2. Make healthy ice-blocks. Anything can go in an ice block. Just work on a balance of flavours and sweetness and any kid will love it. We even serve ice-blocks at breakfast sometimes as our kid doesn’t really do breakfast. Things that can be added:
- Spices - turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, ginger, cocoa, cayenne.
- Oats, quinoa or buckwheat.
- Greens - Cos/Romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, silver beet
- Zucchini, frozen and then blended into an ice-block mix.
- Pureed pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato or beetroot.
3. Always have one thing on their plate that they love and give it a boost. For many kids, carbs seem to be the magic food they could eat all day, every day. I am not against carbs if your body easily tolerates them, but I definitely do not agree with the 6 servings per day bull shit. Here are a few ideas to jazz up your munchkins carbs:
- Rice can be cooked in bone broth. White rice is actually a great option as it is far easier to digest. It doesn’t have much nutritional value but cooking it in broth takes it from a “filler” to “nutrient transporter”.
- Homemade oven chips cooked in coconut oil or duck fat/lard with dried sage and oregano. Switch between potato and sweet potato to alternate nutrients. Serve with Ketchup that has been infused with kraut juice to increase probiotics.
- Pasta tossed with pesto to increase greens and healthy fats.
- Bread. If you eat bread, look at eating sourdough bread which has way less sugar and gluten and the added bonus of being probiotic. During fermentation, phytic acid is also broken down meaning it is not binding to essential minerals which would be lost otherwise. There are also great paleo options which are high in protein. Add some butter or cold pressed extra virgin olive oil to increase nutrient uptake. Nut and seed butter are also great choices to add fat and protein.
4. Listen to your child. If they really despise something then it is highly likely it is for a reason. Everyone's body is built differently and learning to listen to what makes the body feel good and what makes it feel uncomfortable is a super important skill to have. Please don’t downgrade a child’s instincts by making them eat something that doesn’t agree with them. How does this relate to boosting nutrition? If someone eats something that their body struggles to deal with then inflammation occurs and that is so NOT conducive to being healthy. If the inflammation is in the gut, which is almost a dead cert, then the body will not absorb and assimilate the nutrients easily. What a waste of good nutrients!
5. Explain how different nutrients help the body. The old wives tale “carrots help you see in the dark” is a good example. Obviously, we can’t see in the dark, but carrots contain a decent whack of vitamin A which is needed to keep eyes healthy and strong. When children understand how food works they will want to take responsibility for their own food decisions. It may feel like one step forward and two steps back at times, but once the seed is planted, over time it will grow.
Lastly, there are two things you can do to help foster healthy eating:
- Just don’t have junk food in the house! Keep these for special occasions.
- Talk about “all the time foods”, “sometimes foods” and “occasional foods”. Using the words “good” and “bad” creates far more problems than people think. It starts associating guilt, shame, superiority, fear and anxiety.
When it comes to nutrition in your home, what tips and tricks do your family use to encourage healthy habits?