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Healthy Eating Habits and Picky Kids

Spiralized raw zucchini “spaghetti,” butter beans, and olives

Lest anyone think my kids magically eat raw kale and celery sticks (they eat neither), I wanted to commiserate on the fickle eating habits of little children.  What was their favorite food yesterday is suddenly making them gag today.  We may continue to offer it, but eventually we tire of the wasted food and prep time and resort to offering them foods we know they’ll eat.  The slippery slope persists, and one day we discover that our child is subsisting on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

My husband and I were finding that, more and more, we were making special meals for our 3-yr-old because she refused to eat what the rest of us did.  Finally, we decided something had to change.  For one thing, we want our children to be open to different types of ethnic foods and flavors.  For another, I’m not a short-order cook. We started giving her what everyone else was eating for meals.  At first, it was hard.  She complained that she was hungry, despite having a full plate of food in front of her. We took baby steps–requiring that she eat X amount of bites.  Or we require her to finish her avocado or peas before she gets her pasta or hummus crackers.  It also helps if we offer her a big assortment of healthy foods on a divided plate or tray so that she feels like she has a choice in the matter.  Some nights, she ends up eating her dinner at 7:30 at night because she realizes we really are going to put her to bed without offering her other foods–then she relents and asks to eat her dinner.

I’ve read two books on the topic of healthy eating and children–Disease-Proof Your Child and Healthy Eating For Life For Children–and had some good takeaways.  Healthy Eating had this to say:

“Continue to offer whatever vegetables your child will eat as well as plenty of fruits, grains, beans, and lentils.  Or try mincing broccoli, green peppers, and leafy greens in a food processor and adding them to spaghetti sauce or even applesauce, as children don’t know that spinach and applesauce aren’t supposed to be eaten together.  It’s reassuring to note that fruits and vegetables share many of the same vitamins and minerals, and both have abundant fiber.  Most toddlers who temporarily shun vegetables will happily eat plenty of fruit.  And eventually they’ll begin to eat vegetables again.  In the meantime, a multivitamin formulated for toddler will supply what’s missing.”

And Disease-Proof offered this advice:

“It is not necessary to coax them to eat or to eat healthfully.  In fact, battling about food with your child is counterproductive.  The trick is to adhere to this one most important rule:  only permit healthy food in your home.  Children will eat whatever is available.  They will not starve themselves to death; they adapt easily and learn relatively quickly to like the food that is offered.”

Our daughter takes Dr. Fuhrman’s Pixie-Vites as a multivitamin, as well as his DHA supplement (she loves the taste of both too!), so that is added insurance and peace of mind for me.  She has definitely changed over the past few months, as her parents have.  Instead of asking for cookies for a treat, she requests cashews, walnuts and raisins.  Her favorite dinners are still peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and mac n’ cheese made with nutritional yeast, but she is at least eating some of whatever plant-strong dinner I make each night, and doing better with eating her veggies.  She eats a couple fruit and veggie puree squeezie pouches each day.  She has started helping me out in the kitchen when I make a whole food dessert or baked good, which I love

We are doing our best to raise plant-strong kids because we know it will benefit them in both the short- and long-term.

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