While I don’t claim to be an expert on children, I have certainly had my fair share of learning moments as the mother of two little girls. There is always room to refine the art of parenting on a myriad of universally challenging issues, but one thing I have had great success in, is teaching my kids how to eat a variety of nutritious healthy foods. Healthy eating should be a birthright, but sadly, this often isn’t the case. Misinformation, ignorance, inconvenience and inaccessibility are as much the problem of the individual as they are the society.
If we are to raise healthy, empowered children, we need to work as parents to make that happen. Health isn’t an accident: it is the product of conscientious decision making.
Teaching your kids to eat healthy foods and enjoy nutritious food takes effort and consistency. Just because you tried to feed them fish once and they rejected it, doesn’t mean you should give up on fish forever.
Expect resistance if you are introducing foreign flavors, textures and aromas. You can understand your child’s skepticism about Brussel’s sprouts; they smell like stinky feet. But the more often your child is exposed to a food, the more normal it becomes.
A great example of this in our house is my homemade lacto-fermented kraut. When you let cabbage ferment on your counter for a week or two, it starts to smell like garbage. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?
While my oldest daughter, Lakely Belle, loves some garbage smelling kraut, while my little one, Jolie, wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Every time I opened the jar she would kick up a fuss about how disgusting it smelled.
Until one day she didn’t. And then she was brave enough to try it.
There was a time my girls didn’t like broccoli, tomatoes, oysters, kale, radishes, and long list of otherwise intensely flavored, nutritious foods. But now they have developed a palate for many flavors and textures; even weird things like oysters.
Our practice at home is to offer and encourage experimentation of healthy foods; if it’s met with resistance, we simply try again next time.
One of the most effective things you can do to encourage healthy eating is never to cook a separate meal if your kid doesn’t like what’s on the menu.
While I’m careful to include at least one thing I know my kids will enjoy in every meal, I don’t cook to their palate, I cook to mine. Trust me, your kid will eat almost anything if they are hungry enough.
Sometimes I find the most challenging aspect of encouraging healthy behaviors for my kids is being a great role model myself.
Kids learn more from our actions than our words; the old adage “do what I say not what I do” is antiquated and won’t work when it comes to nutritious eating.
Be a good role model, be consistent and persistent, and your kids will come around, eventually.