I promised I'd post some of the things that have helped me get my kids to eat more goodness. We are trying to eat a lot more food that is alive around here. Plants. Things that have recently been growing. I'm not really that good at this yet, really, I have so far to go, but we're putting forth a good effort around here. And things seem to be changing slowly.
I think the first, and most important step, is modeling good eating yourself and being super excited about eating good things. My dear friend Eva is so good at this. She is crazy good at feeding her family healthy, living food. We meet up with her about once a month for a hike or afternoon at the beach and whenever we leave her my kids are all psyched to eat power foods. They come home wanting to learn to fry fresh laid eggs and begging me to buy power greens at Costco for smoothies. Eva motivates like this just by being so excited about it herself and by talking about how good it is for your body.
At first when I went all vegetablly (trying to eat 10 servings of veggies a day) my kids thought I was crazy. Especially Hazel. She still mocks my love of arugula and tells everyone she knows how much salad I eat, as she rolls her eyes. But it's starting to rub off on my kids. Hazel asked me the other day to make her what I consider to be my yummiest arugula salad. After detesting that food, and mocking me mercilessly for liking it, now she wants to like it. That's a win.
Second, at least for my kids (and husband), it was important to not make a big deal about how I was changing the way we eat. I think they'd have been pretty resistant to some kind of challenge to stop eating processed foods, or sugary yogurt or to eat more veggies. Instead I just stopped buying a lot of the bad stuff. Stopped filling our snack basket with dry, dead, processed foods. Stopped buying treats and stuff with extra sugar. Started buying A LOT more fruits and veggies. Altered our dinner menus to have less bread and more greens. They noticed a little big at first, but haven't really said much. Occasionally they'll ask for something I used to buy, but they forget soon enough.
Third, (and this is the hard part for me) I have to have lots of living stuff that my kids like on hand all the time. It has to be easy to put out and prepare. I haven't found a great way to make this as easy as handing them a granola bar, but I'm working on it. One thing that seems to help is to buy things that are pre-cut up – baby carrots, celery sticks, small cucumbers and peppers. And I try to spend a little time after going to the grocery store to cut up a bunch of veggies so that they're easy to pull out.
I loved this idea from the Power of Moms Instagram feed, but I haven't had the energy to go and buy one of these yet, where would I store it in my small kitchen? Maybe always in the fridge with veggies in it….maybe not.
I have been surprised to find that if I have a big plate of veggies and some dip out on the island afterschool it's usually empty by dinner. Kids are hungry and will eat what's easy to grab, especially if there aren't a whole lot of other options in the pantry. The dip is key for my kids. I put out an easy home made ranch dressing and they gobble up the goods.
It's super easy to make….not exact at all. It's sort of a no recipe recipe, which is quickly becoming my favorite kind. I hate the time and energy it takes to pull up recipes. Don't be scared to experiment with this, it really is no fail. Just keep tasting an adding till it tastes right. Here are the basics:
For the base put a mixture of maybe 2/3 plain yogurt to 1/3 low fat mayo (you can change these ratios depending on what you have on hand and how thick or thin you want your dip). If you want to give it a little more tang with more of a buttermilk taste you can either just use all yogurt or add a little vinegar to your base.
Next, add salt and add other seasonings to taste.
To make it taste like traditional ranch you really need to add Dill and Celery salt. I also add garlic powder, parsley and either dried onion, onion powder, or, if i have fresh chives from the garden I chop those up and throw them in. Fresh dill and parsley makes this awesome….but the dried stuff is pretty good too and there's no weird MSG or sugar added. And for some reason it's easier for me to keep this on hand than Ranch just cause I always have yogurt and dried spices around.
And last, for now, GREEN SMOOTHIES. I make one for my kids nearly every morning and set it out with some carrots and their cereal/oats. The smoothies are getting greener and greener as we go on (and sometimes dark brown if I put in berries). The kids are getting less sensitive to the color and I'm not sure that they've noticed that they're getting less and less sweet.
Here's what we usually put in our smoothies:
Lots (like half a blender full) of spinach or other dark greens (kale, power greens from Costco). An orange. Half a banana. Mixed frozen fruit (the pack I buy comes with melons and peaches and strawberries). Sometimes a leftover avocado half. Sometimes a small slice of lime. Sometimes some baby carrots. Sometimes some left over beets. Sometimes some berries (but this makes it brown not green) and enough water to make it blend-able.
And I think the thing that helps the kids want to drink the smoothies more than anything are these awesome stainless steel straws I bought. For some reason the kids love them and I challenge them to drink all the way down the the slurpies (when your straw starts sucking up air). This is an exciting challenge for Peter, never gets old.
By no means am I queen of all this healthy eating, but I feel like we're on the right path, away from dead processed dry stuff and towards all that living goodness.
I would LOVE to hear what works for your family! Please share. I'll keep sharing too.