My children eat their vegies EVERYDAY! A year ago I would not have been able to say that. Now however, I can honestly and easily say my children eat the recommended servings of vegies and fruit and whole grains everyday and drum roll please…. they do so without a fight and usually ask for more!!!
Giving my kids a healthy start to life has been a major passion (aka obsession). I have been trying to cut back on processed food for what feels like forever. Actually it’s been more like 5 years and 3 months to be exact. That is when my oldest son was diagnosed with food allergies and I was forced to start reading labels, all labels of everything I intended to let him put in his mouth. Talk about scary.
Not only was it scary from the food allergy stand point but I started to realize that 90% + of what we were eating had some kind of something that I couldn’t even pronounce in it and if I couldn’t pronounce it and had no idea what it was, how was I suppose to know it was ok to give him? I remember standing in the middle of the grocery store (the cereal isle) reduced to tears because I had no idea what was safe and unsafe to feed my son. I was pretty sure the long words I couldn’t pronounce were unsafe, especially after Googling many of them and finding a lot were banned in other countries or linked to various forms of cancer or other diseases. But, I wasn’t sure what alternative forms of eating there were.
The cereal isle still makes me want to cry on a regular basis.
Over the years I had reduced our consumption of artificial additives and ingredients but it was like shooting in the dark because I really had no idea what I was doing or trying to accomplish until some time last year (2014) I started to see the terms “clean eating” and “real food”. Thank the Heavenly stars for Pinterest! I finally had a name for what I had been trying to do on my own. I started reading everything I could find and came across some amazing ideas and people who were trying to cut out processed food and all of the crazy chemicals that go along with them. It was definitely an AHA! moment for me and I was on cloud nine.
Not so much for my kids or my husband.
After reading some article online on how to have the “perfect” clean eating diet (guaranteed to make you live forever) I completely changed our diet overnight. We went to 100% whole grain everything (kind of), 100% organic everything (kind of), and what I thought was 100% natural everything (I was completely off). I was excited and feeling confident but, something interesting happened… my kids refused to eat. So, after a horrible couple of days I went back to the grocery store… a complete failure and resorted back to the diet we had been on.
That was a little over a year ago and with some slower changes and a lot more articles we are finally at a point where the kids and I are happy with our diet. Over that time I have come to realize a couple of things about how to actually clean up a child’s diet without fuss and tears along the way.
1. .It takes time for taste buds to change. If you try changing everything overnight you will be majorly disappointed. I would personally recommended going at it slowly so you and your children can become more accustomed to the new healthier food. For instance, if you are trying to switch to whole grain pasta, mix the whole grain with whatever your family is used to. Go slow, add more whole grain each time. This goes for brown rice, and wheat flour v.s. white flour in homemade breads, biscuits, pancakes, and waffles. I also used this same idea when I started to cut sugar out of our diet as well.
2. White whole wheat flour is your new best friend. The kids and I could never get used to whole wheat flour even when I went about substituting it in slowly, it’s just too heavy and pretty much ruined everything I tried to make. Then I saw something amazing, pretty much hidden away on the grocery store shelves WHITE WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR! My life was forever changed, the clouds broke and rainbow colored unicorns danced in the isle with me! Ok, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic but it should have been. White whole wheat flour is a whole grain unlike white flour that is processed and has all of the good parts of the wheat taken out, and low and behold tastes and bakes extremely similar to white flour.
3. Kids like to dip everything! Really, in our house that applies for everyone. Our go to dips are simple homemade honey mustard, or sour cream mixed with different herbs.
4. Let them cook. Nothing tastes better to a child than something that they cooked even if they are having to choke it down because it’s so awful. I also ask how they want their veggies. Say to your kids something like, “I have these peas and I have no idea what to do with them would you rather have them with a little butter or put inside our casserole.” Somehow or another that simple question can make peas amazing don’t ask though and those same peas won’t be eaten (dang complicated children!).
5. Never EVER say that your child doesn’t like a certain food. Just because your child doesn’t like creamed spinach from the can (yuck!) doesn’t at all mean that they don’t like spinach. Instead try spinach leaves cooked in with mac and cheese or in spaghetti sauce. But, as soon as you say out loud that your child does not like spinach they will never put it in their mouths again. The same applies for almost any food you can think of. If your child truly does not like a food though, no matter how you make it don’t force it.
6. Make things smaller. For some reason my kids like their veggies to be finely chopped. If I put whole cooked carrots in front of them they wont eat them, but if I dice up the carrots and put them in a sauce or meat mixture they love them. They also like them whole and raw which takes us back to #5 and probably #3.
7. This one is important. Be Prepared For SNACK’s! Snack time is usually a time to grab something quick and snack time is pretty frequent in our house (3 times a day). For us this usually meant something prepackaged and full of chemicals. Our favorites are now fruit and veggies, 3 ingredient tortilla chips, homemade muffins or breads, plain yogurt with fruit sauce, or homemade granola bars.
8. 100 Days of Real Food by Lisa Leake. This book is INCREDIBLE! She has AMAZING ideas on how to feed kids real food and the recipes are simple and don’t have crazy ingredients. I definitely recommend buying the book or in the very least checking out her blog and following her on Facebook and Pinterest. http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ terrible
Now, I’m off to make some homemade bread so my house can smell like heaven for the rest of the day.
Do you have any real food recipes your kids love? Please, please, share them in the comments I’m always looking for new recipes and sometimes Pinterest can not be trusted!