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The Kids Are Not Okay
Here’s a sad fact: Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult onset diabetes. It’s no longer referred to as such because so many kids are getting it.
As adults, we’re responsible for the health of our children. Whether it’s your child, nephew, younger sibling or the kid you babysit for, what they eat matters. Here are 5 ways to get the kids in your life to eat healthy.
#1 – Start now.
If you’re pregnant, eat as though you’re directly feeding your baby…because you are. There’s a direct correlation to how mothers eat while pregnant to how their children eat later in life. Same goes for breastfeeding.
When you introduce solid foods to your baby, puréed vegetables are great first foods! Starting with vegetables sets the stage for a lifetime of eating them.
Keep in mind whether your kid is 6 months or 6 or 16, it’s never too late to introduce healthier foods. I love the Louise Hay quote: “The point of power is always in the present moment.” What we think and do right now has the ability to create our future, regardless of what we’ve done in the past.
#2 – Show And Tell.
If you want your kids to eat spinach, you have to eat spinach. I’ve worked with parents on getting their kids to eat healthier only to discover the parents were eating things they wouldn’t allow their kids to have. Do as I say and not as I do isn’t a good idea. Why do you hold yourself to a different standard? Why do you view your health as less important than your child’s?
Also, make sure you and your partner are on the same page. It’s not cool if one parent lets the kids eat French fries and cake for dinner every night while the other is pushing broccoli and lentils.
#3 – It’s okay to be hungry.
I love the expression “hunger is the best seasoning” because nothing tastes as good as when we’re famished. The next time you declare yourself STARVING, take a bite of a carrot or even a piece of lettuce. You’ll be amazed by how sweet it tastes!
If you don’t give your kids a ton of snacks, they’ll be hungry for their meals. Then – here’s the fun part – serve a veggie starter. They’ll either be so hungry the veggies will taste amazing OR they’ll be so hungry they’ll eat anything. Either way, it’s a win. Also, for 99% of the people reading this, it’s highly unlikely your child will suffer from missing a meal or two. If they don’t want to eat what you made for dinner, they can wait until breakfast. You’re not a short order cook!
#4 – Baby steps.
If you have a child who eats 90% processed foods and sugar, then be realistic about where to begin. Instead of taking away their Doritos and replacing them with carrot sticks – a recipe for disaster – first swap the chips with a cleaner version.
Read ingredient labels. Your goal is to find the lesser of the evils. Pay attention to grams of sugar, especially added sugar. Ideally, you want no more than 8 grams, which equals 2 teaspoons of sugar. Next read the list of ingredients. If your grandma would recognize everything on the list, go for it.
#5 – Get your kids involved.
If you include your kids when meal planning, they’ll be way more invested in what they’re eating. Let them decide the meal one or two nights a week, and have a rule that all meals need to include at least one vegetable. If this means one night is mac and cheese with spinach and peas mixed in, so be it. At least there’s spinach and peas in there!
At restaurants, give your kids a choice from 2-3 items on the menu. Be prepared to read these choices off the regular menu, unless the children’s menu is woke. Most are not. If your kids know how to read, discreetly ask the server to give them a regular menu. Our two kids often split one adult entrée between them, but back when we had one child, most restaurants accommodated a half order at a reduced price.
A Final Word on Food
For all our emphasis on healthy eating, Steven and I don’t force our kids to finish their food. We want our children to trust their bodies to tell them they’ve had enough. We don’t want to override their ability to eat intuitively.
Steven and I also choose not to use food as an incentive or punishment. To us, food is nourishment for the body and spirit. If we use it to get our kids to do something, or “punish” them by taking it away, this can lead to disordered eating, or worse. I never want to send the message that they’re only worthy of being nourished if.
Then there comes the other side of the coin, which is when it’s time to surrender. At some point, kids have to make their own decisions, whether it’s at a birthday party or friend’s house. Sometimes they’re going to pick the junk. Good! With a healthy foundation at home, they’re going to notice how junk food makes them feel, and make future decisions accordingly.
Do you have any tips or tricks up your sleeve when it comes to feeding your kids? Feel free to share in the comments below!