As a mom, I strive to do everything I can to provide the proper nutritional balance so that my kids can get all of their nutrients. That is, until they don’t eat what I give them.
My children are going through a stage now where all they want to eat is waffles, French fries, chicken fingers, pizza, pasta, bread… You know, the traditional American convenience foods. And snacks. Anything that comes in a package – they will eat it. Potato chips, goldfish, cookies, doughnuts, veggie straws, and the like.
No matter how I try, my children, 7 and 3 (going on 13!), prefer these foods. Reading all of the articles about starting your child early with healthier foods, and limiting the frequency of the convenience foods, you would most certainly think that the children would shun these foods, right?
Well. Let me tell you. My experience has been different. When my children were younger, I was all about giving them fruit, veggies, water and various balanced meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They ate whatever I gave them, for the most part (I mean, the veggies, they ate them a bit more than they do now).
The foods that I can get them to eat now, are limited, and a bit basic at best. Some things I can get them to eat are apples, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, Greek yogurt, broccoli (SOMEtimes), chicken, hot dogs, eggs (not the three year old), juice cut with water, and cheese. (This is not a full list, but like I said, a basic list, minus the convenience foods listed above). This, coming from an unofficial foodie, who LOVES to go out and partake in different cuisines in up-and-coming restaurants all over Westchester and in Connecticut, but I digress.
I find that for now, I will need to stick to basic foods to ensure that the kiddies are getting in as many nutrients as possible. In addition, since they are now eating outside of home (i.e. school, camp, relatives homes, restaurants), I have to put in as much effort as I can to ensure that they get a balanced meal. It is unfortunate that I am not around all the time to, sort of, police what the kids eat. However, it is my goal to teach my kids to be able to put a meal together with what is available.
I always provide a protein, a fruit/veggie (most often a fruit), and some type of carbohydrate. As I instill this practice into their meal every time I give them a meal, it teaches them to see what a balanced plate looks like. I know you all are probably reading this and think I am a bit crazy, or obsessed. At some point, I am.
I am obsessed with this because I am obese. I have been overweight/obese for the majority of my life. I am fighting it with every grain of my being so that I can get back to a healthy weight. In doing this, I have seen what all of my choices I made every day up until this moment has done to my body. I do not want my kids to experience this life.
I am relatively healthy – normal blood pressure, average blood sugar, average cholesterol – a text-book copy of health, with the exception of my weight, which is upwards of 300 pounds. I do not want to experience the body breakdown that can happen at this elevated weight. I actively move my body, and am working every day to make better food choices so the scale can get back down to a normal number for my height (I am 5’6”).
My watching my children’s plates is going to help instill better food choices, so that they will not have to fight the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our society. Listen. I am not super strict with what they are eating; I allow snacks in the house, they eat French fries, and fried chicken, and the like. I don’t berade my children for eating snacks. They need to learn how to be in society with all of these food choices. They need to be kids. I get it. I am making it my business to instill these values and visuals so that they can bring it along their trip around the Earth.
My one tip for getting kids to eat some additional healthy food, is to eat it yourself, while you are around your kids. I find that when I am prepping veggies to cook, or just veggies to snack on (bell peppers, celery, cucumber, carrots), they always want to have some of what I am having. They may not eat it if I put it on their plate, but, they are more willing to have some if I am eating some while I am sitting around them.
It seems like food always tastes better when it comes from Mom’s plate! One food that I cannot get them to stop eating is roasted chick peas! Anytime I roast off the chick peas, they can’t wait to have some. They eat so many that the chick peas never last more than 1-2 days. Maybe that means I should make two cans at a time! The chick peas are a great source of protein. When they come out of the oven, they taste just like roasted peanuts.
My take away – although it can be extremely stressful at best to get your child to eat “right,” it would benefit everyone to be flexible with what is eaten, and to strive for balance anyway you can get it.
I would love to hear from you all who have children who eat very healthy, as well as those who are in my circle of balancing out what your child/children eat.