After reading the latest pieces in the New York Times magazine on What Should Children Eat?, I’ve been pondering my own suggestions. The list is simple and requires no recipe indexing or long laborious hours in the kitchen. Mainly, it just requires a shift in perspective. That shift starts with us.
Kids are picky eaters. It’s a struggle with new and weird colors, flavors, and textures. Some kids are born wellness warrior eaters, but the reality is that once kids hit grade school there’s a deluge of influences and marketing that affect our kids’ food choices.
The best marketing campaign to change our kids’ eating habits starts with us and how we model healthy eating. Remember that these tips are guides. They are meant to spark a resonance within. Take what works and adapt them to your own circumstances.
- Shift Perspective
We must allow our kids to be kids and not kids acting as adults. We must also give our kids boundaries – safe boundaries – to be kids and make not so amazing choices and mistakes. As parents, we are guides, not dictators. If your kids aren’t the healthiest eaters right now, we need to remember that we are planting new seeds one small shift at a time. And, we must remember that our kids are not us. They may eat like us and they may not. Our role as parents though is to guide them, not force them, to eat in healthy ways. The first way we practice that is by shifting our perspectives as guides, not dictators to our children.
Guiding our kids to eat healthy takes a lot more patience, creativity, and connection than dictatorial parenting styles, which creates resistance, anger, and inner destruction. We start shifting our perspective when we start bringing healthy eating into the conversation with our kids and that conversation can happen anywhere. Yet, until we shift the perspective within ourselves, we will not be able to successfully shift that perspective with our children. And to be clear, I define shifting perspectives without children successfully as our children tuning into their highest Self. When they are tuned into their highest Self that sets the foundation we want them to work from to establish healthy eating habits. We want our kids to learn basic self-respect and self-love and we show them that as parents by feeding them most important tool we have for our minds and bodies – nutritious food.
- Model How to Eat Healthy
If we aren’t doing it, it’s likely our kids aren’t doing it either. Kids love to ask questions and as guides, our job, our duty to serve in, for, and by love, is to answer those questions through a tool I’ve discussed before called contingent communication, and if we don’t know the answer, our duty is to find the answer, even better together with our kids. We too must be asking questions. That’s part of shifting our perspective and bringing eating habits into the conversation.
My son is now 8 and eats brown rice, lentils, chickpeas, raw veggies and fruit and spinach smoothies. However, this wasn’t always the case and I ate a plant based diet with him while I was pregnant. He didn’t like the texture of some foods in his mouth for a long time, especially the mushy lentil/rice combo dishes. Yet, I kept eating those things in front of him and on his plate, he would just get brown rice and avocado. After much guidance and love, the seed I kept nourishing blossomed. I talked to him about why I eat the way I do nutritionally and ethically, and then as a guide I must let go and let him experience his own decisions within safe boundaries.
I allow him to experience the processed things and other junk food within the safe boundaries I created, but only as an accent to his food, not a supplement. When I say safe boundaries here, I mean, I’ve put up parameters of how we eat. So if he wants a sugary soda, sure I let him have one on occasion, maybe 1-2 times a month. Most of the time we are learning what fluids keep us alert and energized.
We must model how to eat healthy, but we also must model how to give our kids the freedom to be themselves.
- Leave Healthy Snacks on the Counter at Prime Hunger Times
Slice some fresh apples and peanut butter, leave some raw veggies out with hummus or homemade yogurt dip. Toast some whole grain bread and top with your favorite nut butter and honey. Leave a variety of raw nuts out on the counter or some fresh mixed berries. At prime hunger times, just leave healthy snacks on the counter when your kids are hungry. They will explore and experiment with eating them. Then, slowly mix it up and bring in new things to the snack mix. Let them experiment with tastes and textures. Kids are likely to be much more open minded with empty growling bellies and will reach for the first thing in sight. Eat the healthy snacks with them to reinforce the modeling. You can even do this before dinner time without crushing their appetite. Just make it light – fresh fruit and veggies.
We must guide our kids to not only snack healthy, but to learn about how healthy foods affect our minds and bodies. This is where we also shift perspective and hone our guiding skills to practice shifting perspective and bringing the important questions and answers into the conversation.
- Buy Quality Organic Whole Food When Possible
I will be hard pressed to convince that this option isn’t accessible to most less we are speaking of our homeless population. When we spend our money, we have options whether we are economically at, near, or above the poverty line. I’m suggesting that the majority of Americans have reasonable access to affordable whole grains and quality vegetables and fruits. If we have a job and we are buying food, we have the choice to buy whole foods within our budget range. We can splurge and treat ourselves to organic varieties when possible, perhaps over the choice to spend more on shoes (or fill in the blank here) because in the end when we invest in what goes into our bodies, we invest in a stronger community and a healthier pocket book in terms of fewer dollars spent on medical costs. Stocking up on whole grains and legumes/beans isn’t expensive. We can learn to wisely spend a little extra on organic fruit and veggies, starting with those that have the highest pesticide count. We all can learn to reallocate dollars in the budget to invest in our health and the health of our children. Investment up front will pay off in the end.
Quality produce makes a big difference in whether we will actually want to eat it and the same thing goes for our kids. If it’s fresh, quality, and organic when feasible, then we are more likely to connect to the incredible nutritious taste than if the produce has been handled improperly, has layers of pesticides, and isn’t very fresh. If we have dollars to allocate to candy, then we have dollars to allocate to fresh fruit and vegetables and whole healthy grains. When the quality of the food is good, and quality is so important in fresh fruits and vegetables, our kids will come back asking for more.
- Stop Eating Out
There’s so much mediocrity out there in the food business and there’s a lot of fat and sodium disguised as a fun food experience. Once you learn some basic stock up the kitchen wholesomely rules, both you and your kiddos will enjoy food from home versus going out and we can save those going out to eat dollars on allocating it to our budget to buying quality food for home. When you spend money, you expend energy. There’s an energy exchange. Let’s guide our kids to exchange our precious energy for quality energy in return. When we go out to eat, generally we get a proportionately higher amount of fat and sodium, which inflames the body and mind in ways that pull our energy levels down and our focus levels to an almost void. Going out to eat should be a treat and when we do, let’s connect with establishments that bring mindfulness into the food production and selling process.
- Teach Kids to Respect and Honor Their Food
Maybe you say a blessing. Maybe you say a chant or perhaps you and your family are eating and sitting in front of the TV. We teach our kids to respect and honor their food when we practice all these tips thus far, but especially when we sit down together to eat and express gratitude for the nourishment we have in front of us and express gratitude for how our food nourishment will nourish our minds and bodies. How we sit and speak at the table are good indicators of how we respect our food. We as parents must model this at the table. We must also model things in the conversation at the table. I love to talk to my son about how the different nutrients in the foods we eat nourish our bodies and give us the energy for the things we love. When we honor and respect the food we intake, we honor our connection to the divine and to our highest Self. When we tune into that space we spontaneously make choices that are healing for us and are kids do too.
- Add Natural Sweetness to Life
So many of us love sweets, and, for good reason, because they are delicious. Let’s guide our children to love natural sweetness. Depending on your food restrictions add some honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, cocoa powder or fresh berries to your sweet tooth palette. Indulge sometimes, but for those everyday sweet moments let’s satisfy them a more wholesome way. Instead of a chocolate bar, let’s take a piece of plain dark chocolate and top with raw nuts. Smoothies from home are a great way to add all of the above and then some for our finicky food eating kiddos.
- Introduce Herbal Tea to Kids
We need water, but many kids want sugared water and that’s not a great ritual to keep intact. Herbal tea, in many varieties, provides a natural sweetness so our kids are staying hydrated and getting a little sweetness the natural way. Plus, many herbal tea varieties have great calming benefits on our nervous system and are great healthy supplements for our digestive system. Drinking herbal tea together with our kiddos is a great ritual and connecting experience. Tea time is a great way to have kids experiment with different tastes too by adding honey, cinnamon sticks, and citruses.
- Let Kids Explore
While we are guides for our children and not dictators, let’s remember our children are their own beings. They have their own feelings, desires, and dreams. It’s easy to forget that sometimes as parents. We must allow them the freedom to try the cheesy puffs, the sugared drinks, the candy, etc., once in a while, but, and this is the pivotal piece here, we must inform them of what they are eating and why the ingredients aren’t good for their brains and their bodies, and then juxtapose that with the whole foods we introduce and the kinds of sustained energy they provide. We must allow them to experience both tastes and realities, but as guides we give them save boundaries to practice, feel, and experiment with what tastes really good and what tastes good momentarily, but filled with addictive chemicals and artificial sweetener. They must experiment with the difference in tastes and they soon will covet the wholesomeness of the whole foods and their cravings for processed foods will eventually lessen. We want to train the body to crave wholesome foods and have little access to things that aren’t wholesome so that the body builds up a desire to connect and process nutrients for sustained energy over the other energy zappers. Once the body and brain are primed for optimal communication and can differentiate the sustained nutrient dense energy vs. the artificial sugar or artificial pleasure center high, the body moves us in making food choices and the same thing happens with our kiddos. However, we must keep these details in the center of the conversation with our kiddos.
As we embark on a path of teaching kids conscious eating habits, let’s remember our role as a guide. Our kids will develop their own choices and they will be healthy ones for their bodies as we give them the right tools. We must shift our perspectives and model the kind of eating habits that nourish our minds and bodies for sustained energy. Dinner time is a great time to reflect and build connection our kids. It’s also a great time to bring in healthy eating habits into the conversation. When we guide our kids to fill their bodies with nourishing foods, and teach them to listen to their bodies, their bodies will communicate to them the right and healthy things to eat. Our kids will learn over time the kinds of things that make their bodies feel good with sustained nutrient energy. As guides, we must bring these topics into the conversation so our kids are making the connection between our conscious discussions of nutritious eating and how our bodies communicate to our minds its nutrient needs.
This list of tips isn’t a quick fix; we are planting a healthy foundation of nutrient rich seeds. Our actions and perspectives, and how we bring them into the conversation with our kids will provide the water for them to blossom.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea